The Leveson Inquiry highlighted a prevailing confusion as to how data protection law applies to journalism and the media. To tackle this it was recommended that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) work to prepare a comprehensive set of guidelines and advice on appropriate principles and standards to be observed by the press in the processing of personal data.

In response, and following a period of thorough consultation both with the media industry and through a formal public consultation, the ICO has published Data Protection: a guide for the media, designed to help those working in the industry to understand and comply with their obligations under the Data Protection Act (DPA). Alongside this guidance, the ICO has published their response to the consultation, as well as advice to the public if they feel the media has not handled their information correctly.

The guide attempts to strike a fine balance between press freedom and personal rights, and as such will not satisfy everybody. Leveson himself recommended changes to the DPA itself in order to strengthen individuals’ privacy rights against journalists. Conversely certain media groups believe that even the current law represents a threat to cherished press freedom.