Tuesday, July 03, 2007

C-73/07 Reference for a Preliminary Ruling

This is a reference to the ECJ under Art. 234 for a preliminary ruling lodged in Finland on 12 February 2007.

Case C-73/07: Reference for a preliminary ruling from the Korkein hallinto-oikeus (Finland) lodged on 12 February 2007 - Tietosuojavaltuutettu Official Journal C 95, 28/04/2007 p. 19

The main questions to the ECJ are:

1. Is an operation in which data on the earned income, income from capital and the wealth of natural persons area

(a) collected from documents in the public domain held by the tax authorities and processed for publication

(b) published alphabetically in a printed publication by income bracket and municipality in the form of extensive lists,

c) disclosed onward on CD-ROM to be used for commercial purposes, and

d) processed for the purposes of a text messaging service whereby mobile phone users can, by indicating an individual's name and home municipality and texting to a given number, receive in reply data on the earned income, income from capital and wealth of the individual indicated, to be regarded as the processing of personal data within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 95/46/EC (1)

2. Is Directive 95/46/EC to be interpreted as meaning that the various operations listed in Question 1(a) to (d) can be regarded as the processing of personal data carried out solely for journalistic purposes within the meaning of Article 9 of the Directive, having regard to the fact that data on over one million taxpayers has been collected from data which are in the public domain under national legislation on the right of public access? Does the fact that publication of those data is the principal aim of the operation have any bearing on the assessment in this case?

3. Is Article 17 of Directive 95/46/EC to be interpreted in conjunction with the principles and purpose of the Directive as precluding the publication of data collected for journalistic purposes and its onward disclosure for commercial purposes?

4. Can Directive 95/46/EC be interpreted as meaning that personal data files containing, solely and in unaltered form, material that has been published in the media fall altogether outside its scope?

The judgment is likely to take some time (as in the case of Lindqvist), but points worth noting is:

a) Extensive interpretation of what constitutes "processing" under Art. 3(1), definition under the Data Protection Directive is fairly wide.

b) Interpretation of Art. 17 of the Data Protection Directive - odd to have the discussion on the security of processing to be included in the question.

c) Journalistic purposes are covered under Art. 9 of the Data Protection Directive. Art. 9 also covers the processing of personal data for literary and artistic purposes. The Art. 29 Working Party has published guidelines (pdf) on Art. 9 quite a while ago in 1997.

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