Being ordered to cease any further publication on details of a news article, it recently happened to an Italian newspaper.

The newspaper published an article about a love affair between a director of a high school and an 18-year old high school student. The newspaper published the first name, last name, and a photo of the director. Regarding the high school student, only the initials of the first and last name were published. The article further published excerpts of the messages that allegedly exchanged between the two, which placed particular focus on the contents of these messages.

The Italian DPA (Garante) took into consideration the newspaper’s right to freedom of expression and information, including processing for journalistic purposes, and the protection of data revealing a person’s sex life. This latter category of data is prohibited, unless an exception applies under article 9 GDPR. To balance these two different rights, the DPA also took into consideration the Italian Data Protection Code which elaborates on the possibility to limit the freedom of expression by stating that it must guarantee that the right to information is based on essential facts of public interest.

The DPA found that the excessive focus on the details of the messages did not add anything to serve the public interest. Therefore, the DPA found that the dignity and confidentiality of the persons involved outweighed the newspaper’s journalistic freedom to report on those details. The DPA used its specific power to impose a temporary or definitive limitation including a ban on processing based on article 58(2) GDPR.

It is a good reminder for organizations that rights are not absolute and should be balanced against one another. This also accounts for the right to freedom of expression. An important part to this balancing test is often provided in national laws and regulations that contain further guidance on how to decide which right is more important in a specific situation.

Provvedimento del 1° aprile 2022 [9759779]