The court today handed down a judgment dismissing the Home Office’s appeal against a finding that publication of unnamed but identifiable asylum seekers’ details was a misuse of private information and a breach of the data protection act, entitling them to a damages payment. The Court had ‘no hesitation in concluding that the Home Office’s publication of the spreadsheet misused TLU’s and TLV’s private and confidential information.’
Lord Justice Gross gave the lead judgment, saying ‘A hallmark of today’s world is the ease with which departments of State and large private organisations can collect, store and utilise vast quantities of data’.
This case gives useful guidance about the recoverability of damages where private information is misused and data rights breached accidentally by government departments rather than deliberately by media organisations. The Court of Appeal has affirmed that the rights protected by the law focus on the values underlyng privacy, such as the right to control information and autonomy of the individual. These rights apply even if a person is not named, and even if the breach was caused by human error. Those who entrust their data to government departments can be reassured that they will be compensated if it their privacy rights are infringed.