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Data protection update

Case law update
Two recent cases are important from a data-protection perspective:

Durrant v Financial Services Authority, UK Court of Appeal, 8 December 2003
This case involved the request by the claimant from the FSA of certain manual data held by the FSA. The case examined the definitions of 'personal data', 'manual data' and 'relevant filing system' under the UK's Data Protection Act 1998, which are similar to equivalent Irish definitions in the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003. The court held that:

  • For information contained in a document to constitute 'personal data', it must be biographical in some significant sense and should have the data subject at its focus rather than making reference to the data subject, or be related to some transaction or event in which the data subject may have figured or may have had an interest.
  • Information in a manual file organised in alphabetical order was not sufficient to bring those files within the meaning of 'relevant filing system' (and thus the definition of 'manual data'). The court held that for information to fall within this definition it must be easily accessible by means which are broadly equivalent to access of personal information through a computerised system. The court further held that the file must be structured or indexed so as to enable easy location within it of any sub-files of specific information about the data-subject and their personal data.

Lindqvist (European Court of Justice, 6 November 2003)
This case concerned the privately run website of a catechist of a Swedish parish, which contained general information and events of the parish, but also included details of parish family members and telephone numbers. The court held that the uploading of information onto a website would constitute processing of personal data, for the purposes of the Data Protection Directive. The court also confirmed that the placing of information on a website did not constitute the transfer of that information to third countries, particularly because to find the information, one would have to conduct an Internet search, and secondly the information was not sent automatically to people who did not intentionally seek access to those pages.

Colm Kelly

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