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Publishing of tax information by media outlets was not in violation of data protection legislation

Publication date 28.10.2021 11.30 | Published in English on 2.11.2021 at 15.39
Press release

The Data Protection Ombudsman commented on the processing of personal data in connection with tax information portals published online by media outlets. The decision concerns a complaint submitted to the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman by a person who requested for their tax information to be omitted from the tax information portals of Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat. The Data Protection Ombudsman finds that the media outlets are not obliged to comply with the request because the information was processed for journalistic purposes.

According to the person who submitted the complaint to the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman, Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat published their tax information regardless of the fact that the Finnish Tax Administration had agreed to omit their information from the list provided to the media. The person informed Sanoma Media Finland Oy that they object to the processing of their personal data and requested for the data to be removed from tax information portals. The company refused the request.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) obligates EU countries to pass national legislation on the protection of personal data and its reconciliation with freedom of expression and information. In Finland, the Data Protection Act includes a derogation according to which certain provisions of the GDPR do not apply to the processing of personal data performed solely for journalistic purposes.

The Data Protection Ombudsman finds that non-compliance with the derogation related to journalistic activities would require weighty grounds. According to the Data Protection Ombudsman, there is no reason to conclude that the derogation provided in the Data Protection Act would not apply to tax information portals. Certain rights of the data subject do not need to be ensured in such cases.

The Data Protection Ombudsman wishes to emphasise that assessing the content of journalistic decisions made by editorial staff is not within the Ombudsman’s authority. As the derogation provided for in the Data Protection Act applies to journalistic activities, the Data Protection Ombudsman also cannot comment on whether the processing of personal data causes detriment to the data subjects. It is at the discretion of the media outlets to take into consideration the impacts of publishing such data.

The decision is not final, and it can be appealed to the Administrative Court.

The decision of the Data Protection Ombudsman in the Finlex database (in Finnish)

Further information:

Data Protection Ombudsman Anu Talus, anu.talus(at), tel. +358 (0)29 566 6766

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