Charity seeking homes for children charged with breaching data protection laws

Illustrative photo

A prominent Czech children's charity is facing charges for breaching data protection laws. On its website, the Fund for Children in Need publishes details of abandoned children for whom it would like to find a home. The Czech data protection office says that with such sensitive information being made openly available, these children could fall victim to bullying at school, or even pedophiles. The charity vehemently disagrees, and calls the charges ‘shocking’.

Five-year-old Martin is a lovely, well-tempered and lively child, whose development is normal for his age, though his speech is a bit behind his peers. He has to stick to a strict diet because he has a condition called phenylketonuria.

This is one of the biographies that can be found on Marie Vodičková’s website. Her charity pairs abandoned disabled children up with prospective adoptive parents; last year, it found over 30 children homes. For each parentless child, the Fund for Children in Need publishes a small biography, often accompanied by a photo. Now, the Office for Personal Data Protection wants to charge the organisation with breaching privacy laws. Marie Vodičková is flabbergasted:

“I don’t see what crime we are committing when we try and find disabled children a home. These children wouldn’t otherwise have a family, and the state doesn’t know how to find them one. Because if we did it the way that the state does it then the broader public wouldn’t have a clue that these children even existed, and so how could they be adopted then?”

Illustrative photo
Head of the data protection office Jan Němec says that his bureau has a problem with the photos of children Mrs Vodičková is putting on the web. He says that the description of each child, of their illnesses and disabilities, is a breach of that child’s personal privacy. What’s more, he worries that the release of such sensitive information could make these children targets for bullying at school, or even for pedophiles. Marie Vodičková begs to differ:

“I don’t know how these pedophiles would get to these children when it isn’t written anywhere where they actually live. These children are spread out over the whole country – and does this mean that no picture of any child should be published in any newspaper, just in case they were exposed that way to a pedophile? This is utter nonsense. And as for our written descriptions making them victims of bullying - well, a blind child, a child in a wheelchair, a child with a deformed spine, all of this is apparent the first time you see this child. The only thing we write on our website which isn’t apparent at first sight is when a child has problems wetting the bed. And we could take that down.”

If the Office for Personal Data Protection does go ahead and file charges, it will be for a court to decide whether Marie Vodičková’s charity improves the lives of children, or endangers those who it sets out to protect.