Journalistic Purposes and Private Sector Data Protection Legislation: Blogs, Tweets, and Information Maps
University of Ottawa - Common Law Section
March 16, 2010
This paper explores how changes in the ways in which information is consumed and disseminated by myriad individuals in myriad forms may impact data protection law in Canada. The author uses examples of blogs, Twitter and information maps to illustrate the problems which will inevitably arise when trying to discern which individuals and which information will properly fit into the journalistic purposes exception in Canadian data protection statutes. She suggests that exceptions for the collection, use or disclosure of personal information for journalistic purposes raise vital questions pertaining to the purpose and scope of these exceptions. Recent case law serves to illustrate the difficulties faced by decision-makers in defining the scope of these exceptions, particularly given the need to balance the public right to be informed with individual privacy rights. The author considers the journalistic purposes exceptions in light of the role of journalists by analyzing how reporters’ privilege cases, defamation law (“responsible journalism”) and ethical codes of conduct might affect and inform current Canadian case law. She compares how journalistic purpose exceptions are configured and applied in Australia and the United Kingdom. In the conclusion, the author considers the direction that data protection law in Canada should take. She suggests that a reasonableness test, which attempts to balance the various conflicting interests, should govern decisions on whether information is being provided for a journalistic purpose or for some “other” purpose.
Keywords: data protection, privacy, journalism, geographic information, maps
Date posted: October 10, 2010
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