Fabian Demicoli

GRTU inquires into possible case of unfair competition in favour of ‘Tal-Linja’ card operators

GRTU has formally drawn the attention of the Information and Data Protection Commissioner’s Office regarding its concern on the basis of possible data protection and unfair competition regarding access to data entrusted to public authorities for specific purposes. It transpires that the private company Malta Public Transport Service Operations Limited (privately owned by Autobuses de Leon S.L. and Felipe Cosmen Menendez Castanedo) is being allowed a form of access to the National Idenitity Card Database and/or the Driving License Database.

This process is undertaken when an individual is applying online for a ‘Tal-Linja’ Card, upon consenting, to these      national databases. This may imply that the website which transpires to be operated by the said private    company has been given authorization to acquire data from these databases— something which other competing and/or non-competing businesses are not privy of.

GRTU has discussed this matter with the Information and Data Protection Commissioner’s Office whereby explanations and elaborations on the set of approvals and reasoning behind this occurrence have been discussed. GRTU has been informed that the go-ahead has been given to Transport Malta which has been the public authority that has requested this, and that the private company in question is only acting on behalf of the said authority. It has also been explained that a set of procedures have been set in place to, as much as possible, ensure that such data is not mishandled or abused of in any way. It has been explained that this particular case has been approved due to its nature and on a case-by-case scenario. This has been described as a necessity to ensure implementation of government policy as well as due to public transport efficiency being a matter of national interest. A number of conditions have also been set in place, such as the need to dispose of all data upon termination of engagement. It has also been emphasized that the end-user has to give one’s consent prior to allowing the access of said data.

Nevertheless, GRTU intends to follow this matter and raise its concerns formally with the relevant authorities responsible for fair competition, such as the MCCAA and its respective Ministry.

Despite the assurances given upon the data protection concerns, GRTU still considers this access to data as highly valuable and to which any such direct or indirect competitors cannot have similar access to. There may be other transport companies competing for the same possible clientele, such as for instance, chauffeur-driven cabs or minivan service, which may be interested in advertising targeted services to specific segments of society or to design similar bundle offers to their clients, but who may not have this similar allowance to access personal data from national databases even if consent is given. There may also be other business initiatives in other commercial sectors apart from transport which would benefit greatly from such possible access to data.

At the end of the day, in this particular case, there are private interests and commercial activity irrespective of the fact that the sector of operation is one described as related to government policy and national interest. GRTU shall continue to insist that the principles of fairness and equal access to opportunity are safeguarded.

 

 

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