Photo: Print Screen of Privacy Week 2023 on YouTube

On the third day of the “Privacy Week” 2023 regional conference, held in Belgrade, some experts and connoisseurs of the topic shared their insights at the panel discussion focused on the protection of privacy and personal data when using electronic devices, named “Privacy concerns amid digitalization in the Western Balkans”, organized in collaboration with the Metamorphosis Foundation, Open Data – Kosovo and with the support of the European Union (EU).

Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, PhD, Senior Legal Expert at the Estonian e-Governance Academy – online, Vesna Radinovska, Project Manager at Metamorphosis Foundation from North Macedonia, Ariana Gjuli, Project Coordinator at Open Data – Kosovo, Anjeza Derishaj, Commanding Officer of Sectoral Investigation and Data Security from Albania, Zeljko Rutovic from the Montenegrin Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information and Uros Misljenovic, Program Officer at Partners – Serbia took part in the panel.

In terms of what the Government of North Macedonia has done about the Law on Personal Data Protection, Vesna Radinovska said that the Metamorphosis Foundation has conducted research which has identified 50 e-services provided by 25 institutions.

“We developed a methodology for the assessment of their implementation of the Law on Personal Data Protection and a set of 19 indicators, divided into three groups. The first group is the accessibility of governmental services, the second one is transparency in processing personal data and the third one is an assessment of the technical and organizational measures which have been implemented for personal data protection. According to these methodologies, we had two assessments. The first one was in March 2022, while the second one was in August, in order to monitor the trends in the region. E-services were graded from 0 to 19 in order to measure the criteria they fulfill. In March, the average score e-services obtained was 7.7 out of 19, which is quite low, bearing in mind that the Law on Personal Data Protection was adopted two years prior to our research”, Radinovska said.

She highlighted that no significant progress was noted during the same measurement which was carried out in August.

“Some institutions improved, but others did not, so, the results are still not satisfactory“, Radinovska added.

According to her, there are many organizations in North Macedonia that work in this field, but the institutions themselves face their own problems that prevent them from prioritizing personal data protection.

“Institutions face a lack of technical, physical and financial capacities. Even the personal data protection officers that are necessary in every state institution do not have time to devote themselves fully to the role of personal data protection officer. They have other work responsibilities, but everyone is trying to give their best”, Radinovska pointed out.

She added that despite the perceived shortcomings, no significant personal data leak shortcomings have been observed so far.

“The Metamorphosis Foundation provides support to the institutions in the form of trainings for the personal data protection officers and the IT sector officers so that they can align their work with the Law on Personal Data Protection, and we hope that the shortcomings will soon be overcome. The institutions are also showing great interest in improving themselves. However, as I said, the institutions, and we as society have other existential matters, energy crisis, inflation, consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. We also have a problem with one of the neighboring countries“, Radinovska concluded.

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