On January 14, 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) decided that video recordings of police officers in the exercise of their duties and the uploading of such videos on YouTube may constitute “journalistic activities” in the meaning of the journalism exception of the EU Data Protection Directive (“Directive”) (available here).

The claimant in the present case recorded police officers on active duty in their police station and uploaded the video on YouTube.  The Latvian Supervisory Authority ordered the claimant to remove the video claiming that both the recording and the online disclosure violated Latvian data protection law.  Eventually, the Latvian Supreme Court referred the matter to the CJEU.

The CJEU decided that the storage of such video on a recording device and the subsequent online disclosure of the video on a social platform constitute data processing activities that fall within the scope of the Directive.

The CJEU also decided that the online disclosure of the video may fall under the definition of “journalistic activities” established by the CJEU in its Satamedia decision of 2008, which broadly defined the concept of “journalistic activities” to include “disclosure to the public of information, opinions or ideas, irrespective of the medium which is used to transmit them.”  According to the CJEU, the fact that the claimant in this case is not a professional journalist does not necessarily exclude him from benefiting from the journalism exception.  Furthermore,  it was unimportant to the court that the recording depicted wrongdoings by police officers.

The court did limit the journalism exception by indicating that it only applies if (i) the video is solely published for journalistic purposes (and not other purposes such as voyeuristic purposes) and (ii) the limitation to the right to privacy of the police officers was necessary to uphold the claimant’s right to freedom of expression.

The GDPR contains a similar exception for the use of personal data for journalistic purposes, so the outcome of this decision would likely be quite similar under the GDPR.

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Photo of Kristof Van Quathem Kristof Van Quathem

Kristof Van Quathem advises clients on information technology matters and policy, with a focus on data protection, cybercrime and various EU data-related initiatives, such as the Data Act, the AI Act and EHDS.

Kristof has been specializing in this area for over twenty…

Kristof Van Quathem advises clients on information technology matters and policy, with a focus on data protection, cybercrime and various EU data-related initiatives, such as the Data Act, the AI Act and EHDS.

Kristof has been specializing in this area for over twenty years and developed particular experience in the life science and information technology sectors. He counsels clients on government affairs strategies concerning EU lawmaking and their compliance with applicable regulatory frameworks, and has represented clients in non-contentious and contentious matters before data protection authorities, national courts and the Court of the Justice of the EU.

Kristof is admitted to practice in Belgium.

Photo of Anna Oberschelp de Meneses Anna Oberschelp de Meneses

Anna Sophia Oberschelp de Meneses is an associate in the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group.  Anna is a qualified Portuguese lawyer, but is both a native Portuguese and German speaker.  Anna advises companies on European data protection law and helps clients coordinate…

Anna Sophia Oberschelp de Meneses is an associate in the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Practice Group.  Anna is a qualified Portuguese lawyer, but is both a native Portuguese and German speaker.  Anna advises companies on European data protection law and helps clients coordinate international data protection law projects.  She has obtained a certificate for “corporate data protection officer” by the German Association for Data Protection and Data Security (“Gesellschaft für Datenschutz und Datensicherheit e.V.”). She is also Certified Information Privacy Professional Europe (CIPPE/EU) by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).  Anna also advises companies in the field of EU consumer law and has been closely tracking the developments in this area.  Her extensive language skills allow her to monitor developments and help clients tackle EU Data Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Law issues in various EU and ROW jurisdictions.