Unacceptable practice of privacy laws
The way Jehovah's Witnesses handle sensitive personal information is not compatible with basic human rights in a modern society.
The issue we published Monday is startling. It shows how Jehovah's Witnesses treat very sensitive information about members. Such information is both stored and redistributed without the consent of those involved.
In addition, leaked documents show that there is a separate system for keeping track of current and past members. The routine is called "tracking persons". It entails observing the movements of disfellowshipped members and persons accused of criminal acts.
This practice must be seen in the context of how the same congregation handles matters of members' sex lives, gross offenses and abuses. As we wrote in a previous case, Jehovah's Witnesses operate their own court for such cases. Here the members are pressed not to engage the police or the ordinary judiciary. Something that is in stark conflict with the rule of law and the individual's legal certainty.
Several women tell our newspaper about how highly sensitive information about them is apparently stored by Jehovah's Witnesses. One of the women has also experienced that information she gave when she suspected a pedophile in the ward, several years later was used against her in another case.
Also, Jehovah's Witnesses are required to comply with the EU's new Privacy Act (GDPR). It establishes clear limitations on which personal data one can store without permission from the person in question. But Jehovah's Witnesses are trying to circumvent this by requiring members to sign a consent statement. It gives the organization the right to "legally ... use my personal data in accordance with the (congregation's) legitimate religious interests" and "also allow my personal information to be sent to any of the cooperating organizations in Jehovah's Witnesses who may be located in country with different laws regarding privacy ”.
The spokesman for the Witnesses' headquarters in Scandinavia writes in an email that the organization "follows ... carefully applicable laws". Our cases shows that it does not. The Norwegian authorities should note this.