Can Data Protection Laws Prevent the Surveillance of Critical Voices in Germany?
European courts and national data protection authorities dealt with the so-called “journalistic exemption” rule when the Data Protection Directive, preceding the General Data Protection Regulation (‘GDPR’), came into force. The aim of this legal exemption is to relieve journalistic, academic, artistic expressions from certain obligations under Data Protection Law and to reconcile the right to the protection of personal data with freedom of expression and information.
The subject of this article is a case where journalistic exemption is employed by an organisation to legitimise surveillance practices, outside of the scope intended by EU legislators. The organisation concerned invoked the exemption to avoid complying with its GDPR obligations, undermining the implementation of digital rights. The outcome of this case, which will be decided by the Berlin Data Protection Authority (‘DPA’), will set an important precedent for the protection of individuals’ data rights against the distorted use of the “journalistic exemption” rule for unlawful surveillance practices.
I. THE CASE: DR. ANNA-ESTHER YOUNES V. RIAS/VDK
II. ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES
III. INVOKING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TO AVOID GDPR DUTIES
IV. AN IMPORTANT PRECEDENT FOR GDPR RIGHTS AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION