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.