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Privacy - Data Protection Act


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Although there is no specific right to privacy in the UK, increased media attention is leading an increasing number of celebrities to assert their right to privacy. As a result, existing laws are evolving. Whether they will prove to be sufficiently flexible remains to be seen, but for now there is no growing pressure on the UK courts or Parliament to develop a free-standing privacy right.

Legal provisions providing privacy include:

  1. breach of confidence;
  2. human rights legislation;
  3. Data Protection Act 1998; and
  4. various industry codes.

This article looks at the Data Protection Act 1998 only.

Data Protection Act 1998
The DPA requires those who process personal data to do so fairly and lawfully and only if certain pre-requisites exist: for example, the consent of the individual concerned. An individual who suffers damage or distress as a result of a breach of the DPA is entitled to compensation under the DPA. The Campbell case established that publication of a photograph of an individual is 'processing personal data' for the purposes of the DPA.

The DPA provides a defence applicable to journalistic, literary or artistic material, provided the person who processes the data (for example, the newspaper that publishes the photograph) 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.

In the Campbell case, the Court of Appeal allowed the public interest defence, and Campbell's claim failed. (On appeal to the House of Lords, this aspect of the claim was not pursued as the parties agreed that this claim stood or fell with the main claim, namely, breach of confidence.) However, the public interest defence will not always be so easy to make out. The Court in Douglas v Hello! held that the processing (particularly the publication) of the wedding photographs was not fair under the Act, there was no public interest in the unauthorised photographs and there had been a breach of the requirements of the Act. However, the judge in that case said that this did not add an additional route to recovery for damage or distress beyond a nominal award.

Riyaz Jariwalla is a solicitor who specialises in intellectual property law and commercial litigation.

About the Author

Lawdit Solicitors offer services and advice for litigation, commercial contracts, Intellectual Property and IT legal agreements. We are experts in commercial law with a heavy emphasis on Intellectual Property, Internet and e-commerce law. Lawdit is a member of the International Trademark Association, the Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and we are the appointed Solicitors to the largest webdesign association in the world, the United Kingdom Website Designers Association.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-05-28 23:24:10 in Legal Articles

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