The Administrative Courts of Helsinki and Hämeenlinna upheld the Data Protection Ombudsman's decision on tax information portals
The Administrative Courts of Helsinki and Hämeenlinna have rejected appeals against the Data Protection Ombudsman's decisions on the tax information portals maintained by media outlets. In the autumn of 2021, the Data Protection Ombudsman decided that publishing the tax information of individuals in tax information portals does not violate data protection legislation.
The Data Protection Ombudsman's decision concerned cases in which people had complained to the Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman, demanding that their data be removed from the public tax information portals on the websites of Helsingin Sanomat and Ilta-Sanomat. The publisher of the newspapers, Sanoma Media Finland Oy, did not agree to these demands.
The Data Protection Ombudsman decided that it would not have to remove the data since the tax information had been published in the tax information portals for journalistic purposes. Certain provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) do not apply to the processing of personal data for journalistic purposes. The Data Protection Ombudsman found that this exception also applies to tax information portals. Therefore, the controller is not required to fulfil requests to have an individual's data erased, for example.
These individuals contested the Data Protection Ombudsman's decisions in the Administrative Courts. The Administrative Courts of Helsinki and Hämeenlinna rejected the appeals and upheld the position taken by the Data Protection Ombudsman.
Both Administrative Courts found that publishing taxation information in the tax information portals had been justified since the information is important for public debate. The information available in the tax information portals enables debate on socially significant subjects, such as income disparity and income distribution.
The Administrative Court of Hämeenlinna also states that prohibiting the processing of taxation data in tax information portals would entail a restriction of the freedom of speech. Freedom of speech may only be restricted when necessary, for example to protect the rights of an individual. The information published in tax information portals is public and does not reveal sensitive details about an individual's life.
Office of the Data Protection Ombudsman's release: Publishing of tax information by media outlets was not in violation of data protection legislation (28 October 2021)