Thursday, December 14, 2006

League table of media's trade in personal information

The Information Commissioner is due to present a report today to Parliament naming some of the UK's newspapers and magazines that have bought people's personal information in search of a story. According to the latest press release,

The list was assembled following the Operation Motorman raid at premises in Hampshire which led to prosecutions of private investigators. In that operation, the Information Commissioner’s staff uncovered numerous invoices addressed to newspapers and magazines detailing prices for providing their journalists with pieces of personal information. Altogether, 305 journalists were identified as recipients of a wide range of information.

It reinforces the importance of protecting personal information and stronger penalties for those that trade in personal information. As for freedom of expression, the DPA 1998 does provide an exemption to the processing of personal information under s 32:

32. - (1) Personal data which are processed only for the special purposes are exempt from any provision to which this subsection relates if-

(a) the processing is undertaken with a view to the publication by any person of any journalistic, literary or artistic material,

(b) the data controller reasonably believes that, having regard in particular to the special importance of the public interest in freedom of expression, publication would be in the public interest, and

(c) the data controller reasonably believes that, in all the circumstances, compliance with that provision is incompatible with the special purposes.
There will be the public interest defence available, so claims about curtailing freedom of speech seems to be slightly far-fetched. The Information Commissioner also gave a recent interview on this. See