Polish local authorities are voicing concerns about potential privacy violations after the government sought to obtain sensitive data as part of efforts to organize a presidential election via postal vote.
The mayors of several towns have refused to transfer information about their constituents, including their names, address and national register numbers, to the Polish Post, which is charged with organizing the vote on May 10.
They cite data privacy concerns, arguing that the postal services request rests on dubious legal grounds.
Arkadiusz Wiśniewski, the mayor of Opole in southern Poland, said he had received a request from regional authorities Wednesday asking him to transfer citizen data to the authority.
The Polish Post followed up with a request — from a generic email address and lacking a persons signature — asking for the data to be sent by email, in compressed txt or csv files, without any additional protection or password.
In the 30 years since Poland became a democracy, elections have been organized by the National Electoral Commission, an independent body
“Im a legalist. Theres no way I will share this data,” Wiśniewski told POLITICO, adding that his understanding of the law requires him not to send it.
Wiśniewski is not the only mayor with doubts. Others, like Aleksandra Dulkiewicz, the mayor of Gdańsk, and Tadeusz Truskolaski, the mayor of Białystok, have said they would notify the countrys prosecution office about their suspicion that the request could be a scam.
Mayors cite several problems with the data-gathering — namely the lack of a clear legal basis to underpin the Polish Posts authority to organize the election.
In the 30 years since Poland became a democracy, elections have been organized by the National Electoral Commission, an independent body that was responsible for printing and distributing the ballots among other tasks.
Now the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party wants to hold an election in the midst of a pandemic and says the only way to do it is via a postal vote — a first in the countrys history — overseen by ministries and run by the Post.
While the bill that changes the electoral code and introduces the national postal vote has been accepted by the lower chamber of the countrys parliament, where PiS holds a majority, it has become stuck in the higher chamber, where the opposition has a one-seat majority. The law could be held up in the upper chamber until May 6, four days before the planned vote.
Until the law is passed, mayors and some NGOs argue that preparations are not supported by law.
The Association of Polish Cities said in a statement that the Posts request to share the data is “illegal.”
“In the current legal circumstances, the demand of sharing the data in order to organize the presidential election in the country is not justified,” it read.
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