The Privacy Protection in
Data Communication Systems


This part of the web server prepared by the Bureau of the Inspector General for the Protection of Personal Data, is called the Privacy Protection in Data Communication Systems. It deals with the main issues of personal data security in case it refers to final users in the world of e-techniques of information systems. It aims at providing the user with information as regards threats to privacy which are posed by modern data communication systems as well as instruction and advice referring to the possibility of protection against such threats.

In the history of mankind the problem of privacy went along with the technological development. In the period when the main medium of information exchange was a direct verbal transmission and then the printing, ethic guidelines developed in the Middle Ages were sufficient elements of privacy protection. As the technologies of information exchange have been developing, the importance of being in possession of them increased significantly and then, ethic guidelines have been changed for legally binding provisions of law. However, the very fast development of informatics technology in the second half of the 20th century caused that both ethic guidelines and formally binding provisions became insufficient. In the modern world in order to achieve an effective protection of privacy it was necessary to use proper technical measures.

The advance of public network and making the Internet more and more popular introduced possibilities which so far have remained unknown in any other medium. It is often a delight to experience its global scope, great informative potentiality and the spontaneous growth. We take numerous advantages of new technologies repeatedly when we communicate and find interesting information much faster. We exchange data more rapidly and we may share our solutions and scientific output with others and also make use of the knowledge and an enormous output of those who have decided to share their work with others.

However, we are not always aware of the fact that the activities we undertake by means of the Internet are not fully controlled by us. For example, it seems that being a passive final Internet user who only looks through the information published there, one remains anonymous. But it is not true. Some of the Internet sites that we got used to visit are equipped with procedures which, without our knowledge, may collect information about us. This may be a piece of information referring to the IP address of the computer we use, or to the installed software, pages which are visited and, at least, some detailed information upon our interests and others issues. Many a time without the knowledge of persons using a computer a software is installed in it which enable to send unnoticeably private information about the user. In some extreme cases such a program may allow for taking control of the computer's functioning.

We must be aware that new technologies mean not only excellent facilities but more importantly numerous dangers. It is necessary to be aware of the existed threats and to possess the knowledge as regards sufficient protection against them if we want to move in this world safely.

At present the website the Protection of Privacy in Data Communication Systems includes advice referring to issues connected with the use of WWW system. Because of the dynamic development of the Internet and other numerous technologies increasing its potential power this should not be treated as a fully exhaustive handbook. First of all, we would like to focus your attention upon the possible loss of privacy in data communication systems and to show proper directions in undertaking security measures. Gradually, this handbook is going to have more and more problematic issues enclosed such as: electronic mail or a digital signature.
We would like to encourage you to use this pages which may be treated as an integral handbook or just as a set of separate hints. Next chapters retain a constant flow of topics but may also be read individually.