There is also an economic point that the people of Iceland ought to consider. The future prosperity of Iceland, as of every country, is tied up to some extent with the information economy. For this reason, it would not be prudent to do anything that is seen as a grave breach of the letter (or even the spirit) of European data protection law. Even though governments can in theory grant exemptions to this law on the grounds of national interest, such exemptions are designed for police and national intelligence purposes. But transferring the medical records of non-consenting patients to a private company, which will sell access to them to clients who are outside the European Union, will be seen as outrageous. I quote a statement made about the DeCODE proposals by the Data Protection Commissioners of the EU and EES countries made in Santiago de Compostela in September 1998 at the 20th International Conference on Data Protection:
`(The Commissioners) stress the importance of the following elements:
They express their serious concern about the matter and recommend the Icelandic authorities to reconsider the project in the light of the fundamental principles laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe Convention 108 on Data Protection and Recommendation (97)5 on medical data, and the EC Directive 95/46 on the protection of personal data.'