Amplifying Access to Personal Data and Potential Privacy Harm in Satakunnan v. Finland (Case Note on the ECtHR Grand Chamber Judgment)
15 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 14, 2018
In Court’s own words “the present case is unusual” in that it concerns the privacy interests in publicly accessible data. And as some say – hard cases make bad law. Thus, unavoidably, there are many debatable points in the judgment and indeed many of its aspects have been discussed be it in the amicus briefs submitted to the Court or in the dissenting opinion by Judges Sajó and Karakaş. In the note, I focus just on some of them: the issue of foreseeability of the laws, the reasoning concerning the application of the journalistic exception to the publication, the interpretation of the concept of the contribution to the debate of public interest and the issue of potential privacy harm. Finally, I make an argument that what is most problematic in this case is not its final result, which, after all, is bound to be controversial when two fundamental rights collide, but rather the balancing methodology applied by the Court. By referring to a set of criteria not well suited for the circumstances of the case and giving deference to the findings of the domestic court without proper assessment of all the aspects of the rights at issue, the Court proceeded with interpreting the notion of journalism unnecessarily narrowly. Consequently, the Court perpetuated within the scope of Article 10 ECHR certain understanding of this notion previously construed by national courts within the scope of application of Data Protection Directive.
Keywords: data protection, freedom of expression, privacy, journalism, ECHR
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