A company that sends text messages revealing the income of Finland's wealthiest citizens is subject to European data protection laws but could be protected by an exemption for journalism, according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The processing of personal data made available by Finnish tax authorities may be the subject of a derogation from the EU's data protection regime if it is carried out solely for journalistic purposes, the ECJ ruled. Unlike in the UK, details of taxes paid by individuals in Finland are made publicly available. For several years, a company called Markkinapörssi has collected public data from the Finnish tax authorities for the purposes of publishing extracts from those data in the regional editions of the newspaper Veropörrsi each year...In its judgment ..., the ECJ ruled that the activities of Markkinapörssi and Satamedia "must be considered as the 'processing of personal data' within the meaning of [the Data Protection Directive]" – even though the files of the public authorities that are used comprise only information that has already been published in the media.
54 Article 9 of the directive refers to such a reconciliation. As is apparent, in particular, from recital 37 in the preamble to the directive, the object of Article 9 is to reconcile two fundamental rights: the protection of privacy and freedom of expression. The obligation to do so lies on the Member States.
55 In order to reconcile those two ‘fundamental rights’ for the purposes of the directive, the Member States are required to provide for a number of derogations or limitations in relation to the protection of data and, therefore, in relation to the fundamental right to privacy, specified in Chapters II, IV and VI of the directive. Those derogations must be made solely for journalistic purposes or the purpose of artistic or literary expression, which fall within the scope of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, in so far as it is apparent that they are necessary in order to reconcile the right to privacy with the rules governing freedom of expression.56 In order to take account of the importance of the right to freedom of expression in every democratic society, it is necessary, first, to interpret notions relating to that freedom, such as journalism, broadly. Secondly, and in order to achieve a balance between the two fundamental rights, the protection of the fundamental right to privacy requires that the derogations and limitations in relation to the protection of data provided for in the chapters of the directive referred to above must apply only in so far as is strictly necessary.