Private information and media freedom

Helen, Fenwick and Fenwick, Daniel (2016) Private information and media freedom. In: Fenwick on Civil Liberties & Human Rights (5th ed). Routledge, Abingdon, UK. ISBN 9781138837942

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The recent creation of a tort of invasion of privacy aimed at the protection of personal information against media intrusion has filled one of the most serious lacunae in English law. Described by the Law Commission as ‘a glaring inadequacy’, and condemned by the Court of Appeal in a pre-HRA decision of the House of Lords remarked upon '...the continuing, widespread concern at the apparent failure of the law’ in this area. That failure has now been remedied under this largely HRA-driven legal development although, as the House of Lords stated in Wainwright v Home Office, there is no general, comprehensive tort of invasion of privacy.

The developments discussed below are driving forward a respect for the privacy of personal information still not fully evident in the publishing of a number of media bodies, especially the tabloid press. The misuse of private information by private individuals in other contexts, such as in relation to ‘cyberbullying’ or ‘revenge porn,’ is considered elsewhere in this book. The acquisition and use of personal information by state agents, with the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or protecting national security, is considered in Chapter 10. While Chapter 10 considers the laws relating to interception of communications and surveillance aimed at the regulation of investigative techniques by state agents, it must be remembered that they can also be used against intrusive methods employed by the media to gather information.

The tort of misuse of personal information could of course be used against the broadcast media or against a private individual who discloses personal information non-consensually, but the press is by far the worst offender in terms of acquiring and publishing personal information. This chapter gives approval to the development of the tort but in doing so the danger to press freedom must not be over-looked. Thus the operation of the tort must be balanced by protection for speech, so as to allow the publication of matters of genuine public interest.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: M100 Law by area
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Depositing User: Daniel Fenwick
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2017 16:09
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2017 16:09

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