Private Parts

Living as a foreigner (in any country), you tend to notice things that stand out in the country you live in because they are different from the norm for you. However, there are times when you just notice things because of how absurd they seem. A couple of news stories recently have made me notice Poland’s privacy laws. Privacy laws exist in most countries and they can vary greatly in strictness. However Poland’s laws seemed like they may not make a lot of sense – to me at least.

My first example came a few weeks ago, while reading an article on corruption in Polish football. I was struck by the way in which the Polish privacy laws seem to be applied. In this specific example, it was reported that the coach of the Lech Poznań football team could be the next high profile person to be investigated with regards to corruption in Polish football. While the corruption cases are not new to me, what was new was the application of the privacy laws to ‘protect’ his identity. According to the report – “Jacek Z (name withheld due to Poland’s privacy laws) is alleged to have been involved in match fixing”. Now, I am not a huge fan of Polish football, but have seen Lech Poznań play a few times in the Polish Ekstraklasa and UEFA Europa League, and have heard the name of the coach mentioned a few times. Thus, even as a foreigner, it is not difficult to circumvent the privacy laws, and know who is involved.

The coach of Lech Poznań, Jacek Z. – protected due to privacy law

My second example was when I spotted a news story while watching television. When channel-hopping, I stopped on TVN24 for a moment to see what the latest news was. A story appeared regarding the mayor of a small town called Łaskarzew just south of Warsaw. Waldemar L. was filmed driving while saying he did not have a driver’s licence. He tried to deny it, even as TVN24 showed the secret footage of him haven just driven a car. Mayor Waldemar has his named ‘clipped’ to protect his identity. The news article then proceeded to chase him around his town with his face blurred – giving him further ‘safety’, for his privacy of course.

“Face blurred for privacy. Don’t forget – he is mayor of Łaskarzew, 80km south of Warsaw!”

To me, it seems that the privacy laws don’t exactly do much for anybody that may be in a high-profile case or in a well-known position. For example, if Donald T. or Jarosŀaw K. were involved in a court case, the privacy laws would not mean too much for those trying to ‘guess’ their identity. It just seems to me like one big game of Blankety Blank. For those that are not aware, this was a game-show where contestants tried to complete the phrases with missing words, by getting assistance from celebrities to guess the missing items. “Scatts likes to wear ____? Any ideas Wendy…?”

However, to end on a somewhat sobering note, it seems also that the privacy laws have extreme strictness when it comes to maintaining data records. This means that any records which are less than 100 years old and are stored in Poland are not open to the public. From my recollection of such records in the UK and Ireland, data records are made public after 30 years. This usually means that there is a news story once a year reporting on the ‘Top Secret’ files from 30 years ago which were just made public today. In this way we can find out which country Maggie Thatcher was about to invade or which Irish government minister was having an affair with his colleague’s wife. For Poles, they have to wait 100 years for any release of data. This would be particularly difficult for families of victims of the Katyń or Smolensk tragedies. The families affected by the Smolensk crash have to wait 99.5 years for information on the black box recordings to be fully released (from my understanding at least).

Stored in Poland? See you sometime in the next century…

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14 thoughts on “Private Parts

  1. Stix says:

    Equally interesting and ridiculous. Not much chance for Premiership footballers’ super injunctions!

    They changed the law in Britain a few years ago. Under the Freedom of Information Act public organisations have to release information on request, within appropriate boundaries and so long as data is protected.

    Apologies for such a geeky post!

  2. Paddy says:

    Reminds me of the “actor’s voice” for Gerry Adams. As a kid I always used to wonder what his voice sounded like, then it turned out he sounded like a bloke from Northern Ireland.

    Talking about Lech Poznan, I heard their fans put on quite a show in yesterday’s game against Man City even if the team were beaten.

  3. ThomasM says:

    Bang on target. This practice amuses me every time. Another hilarious example is the case of Andrzej Lepper, who suddenly mutated into “former vice prime minister Andrzej L.” in connection with a sexual harrasment charge… That *might* have been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but what about the case of ex-politician Eugeniusz Wróbel, who was murdered by his son “Grzegorz W.” last week? (To be sure, there *is* a theoretical chance that the son’s last name is different from his father’s, but it ridiculous anyway…)

  4. bob says:

    “Scatts likes to wear ____? Any ideas Wendy…?”


  5. papageno says:

    My favourite example is: “Przemysław W., son of the former president and Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa”.

    Can you guess his full name?

  6. odrzut says:

    The articles about “Przemysław W.” were funny.

    There were also something about Mirosław H. the son of Polish astronaut:) (there were exactly one Polish astronaut).

  7. polkaontheisland says:

    in the country where people kiss and hug to greet – it’s illegal to touch other people. You have to ask permission to breech the personal untouchability. Guess it’s done by gestures.

  8. scatts says:

    Here I am, working my ass off and all I get in the background is a load of abuse from my mates! Hah! ;)

  9. scatts says:

    It was funny that Gerry Adams routine.

  10. island1 says:

    I remember the IRA ‘actors’ voices’ too—utterly ridiculous. Imagine how impossible that would be in the Internet era. Gerry Adams would have twittered—or is it ‘tweeted’. Just goes to show; you can’t be old enough to remember Thatcherism and young enough to master neo-verbs.

  11. island1 says:

    But what’s really going on here? I assume this is just journalists making fun of the privacy laws by using transparent pseudonyms. I’m guessing the law says something like ‘identity must be protected’ but doesn’t specify how. In the UK, anonymity is usually guaranteed with forms such as Miss X or Baby C (where ‘X’ and ‘C’ are random letters, not the initial letters of surnames). Anybody know if this is true?

  12. Paddy says:

    It’s actually illegal to touch people in the UK without their consent as well. How do I know this? Best you don’t ask..

  13. zarazek says:

    I remember when the Baby P case was all over the news, after some time they could reveal his identity and called him Peter so I guess these may not be just random letters.

  14. anna says:

    Why do British can`t open files concerning their history . Especially when it is not shiny one. See the case of files concerning the death of gen Sikorski

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