Restriction of court data is way over the top

While the new “Law on Protection of the Person Concerning Personal Data Treatment” (Law No. 8968, published Sept. 5, 2011, in the Gazeta) has some admirable points to it, it does not adequately do what it was designed for.

This law is a weak attempt to mirror the fierce data protection law known as the EU (European Union) Data Protection Directive. C.R. Law No. 8968 has been described as “trade-oriented” and mainly written to adhere with the principles of the Central American Free Trade Agreement and secure EU adequacy recognition (in order to receive data from the EU).

A major flaw in this law is that it does not require notification to regulators or affected individuals when sensitive data is stolen or mishandled. It makes no mention for the protection of cédula de identidad numbers, which are issued at birth and used on almost all documents in this country.

The law creates the Citizen’s Data Protection Agency (Prodhab) and under Article 16 has the authority to “enforce data protection rules.” Unfortunately, in an apparent violation of this law, the Poder Judicial has taken it upon itself to restrict the public’s right to review the court’s civil and criminal online indices, which is an essential part of any due diligence investigation prior to making an investment or other decision in respect to Costa Rican businesses or individuals.

The judiciary could have handled this much better, providing the same indices but stripping cédula numbers from the system. An outright ban is over the top. I was informed that Supreme Court Justice Roman Solís was responsible for this unilateral decision. He can be reached at

Effectively, in its haste to mirror other Latin American countries and mimic EU data laws, the Costa Rican judicial branch has restricted this essential data flow which is necessary for trade and investment both within and outside of Costa Rica. As Costa Rica prides itself on being a pacifist nation without a military, the citizen’s only weapon against tyranny and oppression is the free flow of information and transparency at all levels of government. My requests to the Poder Judicial to find out who currently has access to this database have not been answered. It would be interesting to know if this restricted information will be used by one politician against another, by one bureaucrat against a citizen, by the police against the citizens and if a corrupt underground network will begin where this information is offered for sale.

The only solution to this problem is to return this essential search tool to the public.
Seth Derish
Chico, Califonrnia,
and San José, Costa Rica

Editor’s Note; Mr. Derish has been a licensed private investigator for 35 years and opened an office in San Jose 15 years ago. He is the Central American district director for the Council of International Investigators. He can be reached at

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