Karin Kayser-Frutschi, zvg.

«We don’t want
American conditions here»

The police need personal data so that they can provide security, argues government councilor Karin Kayser-Frutschi. In the case of prevention, however, there is always a question as to whether the intrusion into privacy is too great. Ultimately, it is up to politicians to decide.

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Anyone who expects the Nidwalden justice and security director to be in a beautiful historic government building in the center of Stans is wrong. Karin Kayser-Frutschi, who has been co-chair of the Cantonal Conference of Justice and Police Directors (KKJPD) since April 2023 together with Neuchâtel Cantonal Councillor Alain Ribaux, actually has her office in a cantonal police base for which the term «unpretentious» is flattering, close to the freeway junction.

Ms. Kayser-Frutschi, how can I find out today what personal data the police and other official agencies have collected about me?

If the proceedings are ongoing, you have the right to inspect the files. Otherwise, you can submit a request for file inspection to the authority. In addition, there are data protection officers in the cantons from whom you can obtain information about your rights and the related processes. In most cantons, data can generally be inspected due to the principle of public access in the administration, as long as this does not violate the personal rights of others. Nidwalden is an exception, with us the principle of public access does not apply, but in practice the difference is small.

The state knows more and more about the citizen. The citizen, on the other hand, knows or is supposed to know less and less about the state. The most recent example is the discussion about the use of body cams and the ban on private filming during police operations…

…this whole discussion was initiated by a single police association. The KKJPD has not officially commented on it, but the tenor is clear: If we have to defend our work by filming what we do, we will have conditions as they stand in America. We don’t want that in Switzerland. A film, whether from a bodycam or from a private source, always shows only a section of reality, without embedding it in the context. Our task as political leaders is to enable our police officers to do their job as well as possible within the framework set by the law. But as to your actual question, distinction between «know» and «supposed to know» is central.

In what way?

Because not only I notice that the knowledge of many citizens about the state – constitutional law, politics, civics – is insufficient, which has to do with education. That is why people understand state processes and procedures and also their connections less and less. If citizens knew what their rights were, many questions about the handling of data would not arise at all.

A solid education and thus also the imparting of knowledge about the functioning of the state is supposed to be the responsibility of the cantons.

I cannot dispute that. In general, we have to re-learn to inform citizens in such a way that they can understand the state’s actions and do not judge them a priori as negative and directed against themselves.

Would you also not dispute that the state is collecting, analyzing and evaluating more and more personal data?

The possibilities of collecting data and evaluating it in such a way that an order can be fulfilled better and more efficiently have increased by leaps and bounds in the last 10 to 20 years. Today, even every private company uses its customer data to optimize its services. Extreme examples here are certainly the large technology companies, which are supplied with a vast amount of data by each of us through our daily use of our cell phones. The authorities, on the other hand, must abide by the law…