European court backs Finland's Data Protection Ombudsman, finding that data privacy rights can be used to prevent a media company from publishing publicly available tax data.

The European Court of Human Rights found that when the right to freedom of expression and data privacy rights collide, the public interest value of the publication must be assessed. The Court endorsed the view taken by Finland's Data Protection Ombudsman, and by the Finnish courts, that an exception from data protection law for journalists was not applicable, even when the journalist is publishing personal data which is already available to the public. In this case the Court found that the public interest did not require such publication of personal data to the extent undertaken by the media company.

More broadly, this case points to the surge in data protection and privacy questions coming before courts at all levels.  Reconciling data privacy rights with rights to freedom of expression has prompted much debate of late, particularly in light of "Right to be Forgotten" (we reported on more recent developments in this regard here). Where a balance of the relevant rights and interests has to be made the outcome will vary on a case by case basis and will largely be dependant on the interest of the public in having access to that particular information.