Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comparing Freedom of Speech Protection and European Data Protection

David Erdos, University of Oxford Faculty of Law, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, has published Confused? Analysing the Scope of Freedom of Speech Protection vis-à-vis European Data Protection as an Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper. Here is the abstract.

This paper analyses the qualified derogations under the EU Data Protection (DP) framework made available for activities which are solely journalistic, literary or artistic (Directive 95/46/EC, Article 9). It is found that, notwithstanding the apparent breath of the European Court of Justice’s 2008 Satamedia judgment, the scope of this provision remains highly opaque and confused. This has led courts and regulators alike to find this ‘special purposes’ Article inapplicable when large databases of information are disseminated, when data is communicated to essentially privatized individuals, even if indeterminate in number, and when the processing includes a purpose other than journalism, literature and art. Since Member States have almost exclusively relied on this provision to reconcile Data Protection (DP) and free speech, a wide variety of expressive activity, including rating websites, mapping services, search engines, academic research, socio-political speech and social networking, are subject to onerous standards in the general data protection (DP) scheme. The ‘special purposes’ provision in the proposed European Data Protection Regulation (COM (2012) 11 Final) must be revised so as to clearly and explicitly protect all activities orientated to disseminating information, opinions or ideas for the benefit of the public collectively. In addition, Member States should deploy more limited derogations available in the interests of the ‘rights and freedoms of others’ to protect activities which merely, but importantly, facilitate public expression (for example, search engines) or which promote individual self-expression (for example, social networking). Nevertheless, to properly balance the competing values in this area, it is essential that such an expansion be coupled with measures specifying in a more unambiguous fashion the requirement that all derogations be truly proportionate in relation to the various rights and interests involved.

Download the paper from SSRN at the link.

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