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Statement to the Ministry of Finance concerning the reform of the personal identity code system and gender-neutral personal identity codes (TAS 8/2022, issued on 3 March 2022)

In his statement, the Ombudsman for Equality commented on the draft government proposal that proposes changes to legislation including the Act on the Population Information System and the Certificate Services of the Digital and Population Data Services Agency (Population Information Act 661/2009) and the Data Protection Act (1050/2018). One of the aims of the proposal is to enable the adoption of gender-neutral personal identity codes by removing the gender marker from the structure of personal identity codes.

The Ombudsman for Equality is in favour of the proposal. Inclusion of information concerning gender in personal identity codes and excessively extensive use of this information exposes people to discrimination based on gender, gender identity and expression of gender. The use of gender-neutral personal identity codes may also help reduce gender discrimination related to automatic algorithmic decision making.

In addition to their primary purpose of unambiguous identification of a person, personal identity codes are currently also used to help identification in various service situations. A person may be requested to provide their personal identity code for the purpose of verifying their identity when managing their affairs, and significance may be assigned to the gender marker included in the personal identity code even when identifying the person as a woman or a man is not necessary. This causes problems particularly for persons whose gender identity or gender expression does not correspond to the gender entered in the Population Information System. 

The proposed change would prevent discrimination, improve the protection of the privacy of transgender people and reduce misgendering. Because the plan is to not introduce gender-neutral personal identity codes until the start of 2027, in the future, persons who have obtained their personal identity code before 2027 may need to change their personal identity code if necessary.

The Ombudsman for Equality also noted that the change affects the practices and data management of organisations that need to process gender data. Starting from 2027, information regarding a person's legal gender would be disclosed from the Population Information System as a separate piece of information in accordance with the principles laid down in Chapter 4 of the Population Information Act. The Ombudsman for Equality finds it positive that the change would compel organisations to more carefully consider whether their operations require the processing of data subjects' gender information.

However, the proposal does not clarify situations in which organisations would be allowed to determine a separate data field regarding gender in their own data systems and the data entered in such field. Attention should also be paid to situations in which organisations can determine and decide whether the gender data of a data subject refers their legal gender entered in the Population Information System or whether gender data can in some cases be based on self-identification. It is important to remember that the legal gender of a person is not sensitive personal data. However, information on a person's transgender background, gender affirmation or belonging to a gender minority is within the scope of privacy protection. 

The Ombudsman for Equality considers it important that gender data referred to as legal gender continues to be recorded into the Population Information System and that the data is available in situations when it is justifiably needed. Gender data is important when monitoring the status of women and men in society and when planning and implementing socio-political measures on the basis of this information. Gender data is also needed for promoting equality between women and men in institutions, workplaces and official activities.