Montenegro: The dilemma between the right to private life and health

The authorities in Montenegro have decided to give priority to the right to public health over the right to privacy.

Long divided between these two positions, it did not take too long for them to finally decide to do something extraordinary that will not be seen in good terms by everyone.

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They decided to publish the list of people who would be infected or potentially infected with the CoviD-19 virus, as well as their place of residence. These lists will highlight those infected in quarantine and people who might have had contact with them before having contact with that quarantine. This list now constitutes 1% of the population, divided according to the localities. The idea is to allow anyone to identify in advance the individuals who will refuse to remain in quarantine and therefore expose others. "We felt that the right to health and life was above the right to unconditional protection of personal data," said Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. "That's why this is not the time to make legal nuances, but to save lives. ».

The publication was made following the obtaining of an authorisation from the authority in charge of the protection of Montenegro's personal data. This measure of course offended more than one. And human rights advocates have decided to intervene. "There is no adequate legal basis for the public treatment of health data on the Internet because it fall into a separate data category and enjoy a higher level of protection," said the SHARE Foundation, a foundation that is active in promoting digital law and individual freedoms at the it level. "The purpose of this measure is also controversial. Is it the public shame of those who have violated quarantine, which can be concluded from the statements of Montenegrin officials, or is it a measure that will bring concrete results? to this end, the foundation wonders.

It is certain that these measures have created a split in Montenegrin public opinion. In any case, the government is exposed if any such measures are found to be unconstitutional. "People close to the government claim that the public condemnation factor will make people who isolate themselves hesitate before deciding to rape their quarantine," noted Luka Nikolic, a Montenegrin political scientist. "On the other hand, human rights activists and some citizens believe that it is unacceptable and ineffective to publicly label people who have not committed any act contrary to the law. But when the crisis ends, we will assess whether this action has been useful or not."

It should be noted on the one hand that Montenegro is not the only one to have opted for this kind of measure. Indeed, its neighbour Bosnia and Herzegovina had opted for the same measures. "We believe that it is not illegal to publish a minimum of data on people who violate the law," the Bosnian Data Protection Agency said in its statement. "They violate the law of those who protect themselves and save lives. Therefore, the public interest outweighs the right to the protection of personal data," the Bosnian authorities noted.

The SHARE Foundation, for its part, has not failed to challenge the government on this rather delicate issue: "The government could delete the data from the site once the citizens are healed, but this cannot be guaranteed for the rest of the Internet. In this way, the data could remain public forever."

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