The Naturalisation–Privacy Interface: Publication of Personal Data of New Citizens vs European Privacy Standards

At present, there is great variance in the law and practice concerning the publication of personal data of newly naturalized citizens across the EU Member States, affecting a million individuals annually. Depending on the extent of the personal details made available, publishing the fact that an individual has naturalized can have negative repercussions in that individual’s state of naturalization or state of other/prior nationality. While certain Member States publish personal details in their official journals to some extent, twelve do not do so at all. In recent years, several countries have amended their related legislation or re-assessed publication practices in response to the growing awareness of the importance of data protection concerns. This article analyses the current Member State practices in this respect, conducting case studies into the practices of Ireland, France, and Latvia. The analysis documents the emergence of a clear trend toward the development of a more critical approach to the publication of personal data, which was previously the unquestioned default. The article subsequently investigates the possibility of identifying a legal standard that can be used to determine whether a more coherent approach to regulating the issue of publishing personal data of naturalized citizens can be deduced. In the EU context it finds that these publication practices may fall within the scope of the GDPR, while in the context of Council of Europe law, the principles of the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data undoubtedly apply. UN instruments, by contrast, appear de facto inapplicable. The article concludes with a set of recommendations on what information should be published and how, emphasizing that public authorities should carefully scrutinize and potentially re-consider their strategies managing the publication of personal data upon naturalization.