Bulgaria/ Supreme Administrative Court/ [2019] 11036/2017

Association Civic Control – Animal Protection (СНЦ „Граждански контрол – защита на животните“) and Mr G.S. vs Ms A.D.
Deciding body type
National Court/Tribunal
Deciding body
Supreme Administrative Court
Decision date
  • Bulgaria/ Supreme Administrative Court/ [2019] 11036/2017

    Key facts of the case:

    Ms A.D. claimed a violation of the Protection of Personal Data Act (Закон за защита на личните данни) because her personal data – full name – was visible and accessible to anyone on a Bulgaria-based website, owned by a Bulgarian citizen. The website was processing data from case-law on the Access to Public Information Act (Закон за достъп до обществена информация). The website, based on pre-defined parameters, gathered information from the website of the Supreme Administrative Court (Върховен административен съд) on cases related to the application of the Access to Public Information Act (Закон за достъп до обществена информация). It was first developed as a search engine for internal use by an NGO, but was then made public to allegedly overcome the ‘faults’ of the Court’s website own search functionalities. The search engine followed and analysed the number of cases, regarding access to public information, and citizens’ related procedural activities, thus, giving allegedly unlimited possibilities to identify any person, without their consent , and show their activity or passiveness in such cases, thus going beyond the public information on the Court’s website. The applicant’s personal data appear in the case law the website shows without her having given consent to the owner to process such data. After several rounds between the Commission for Personal Data Protection (CPDP) (Комисия за защита на личните данни, КЗЛД) and administrative courts, the case ends up before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) (Върховен административен съд, ВАС) for a second time

    Key legal question:

    The court agrees that the main issue of dispute is whether the transmission of personal data from one website (source) to another is a violation of Art. 2 of the Personal Data Protection Act (Закон за защита на личните данни).

    Outcome of the case:

    The court confirms the lower instance’s decision and finds a violation of the personal data protection regime. This conclusion was reached despite the claim that the website was performing a journalistic activity – the court found this was only a technical activity, which, however, was related to wrongful publicisation of personal data.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    Indeed, as the cassation appellant states, the notion of ‘journalistic purposes’ has not been defined by the legislator, but we should take into account the binding interpretation of the ECJ’s Grand Chamber under Case № С-73/07 and the importance of the freedom of expression in a democratic society so that we can interpret the notions related to that freedom, such as journalism, widely. The emphasis is, however, put on journalistic activity. The main feature of such activity is the collection, analysis, interpretation and distribution through mass media of up to date and publicly significant information. Any journalistic activity is an expression of the freedom of speech in a rule of law state. Any limitation of the freedom of expression and information is only acceptable within the necessary limits in a democratic state, according to Art. 52, para. 1 of the Charter and Art. 10, para. 2 of the ECHR. In its nature, journalistic activity is distribution of information on issues of public interest. To process information for the purposes of journalistic activity, the information should concern values which, in view of the social relations in question, are indeed significant for the public.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language)

    Действително, както сочи и касатора- понятието “журналистически цели” не е изрично дефинирано от законодателя, но следва да бъде зачетено задължителното тълкуване на Съда на Европейския съюз, Голяма камара по дело № С-73/07 и като се вземе предвид важността на правото на свобода на изразяване на мнение във всяко демократично общество, е необходимо свързаните с тази свобода понятия, като журналистиката например, да се тълкуват широко. Акцентът обаче е поставен върху журналистическа дейност. Същественото за същата е събирането, анализирането, интерпретирането и разпространяването чрез средствата за масова информация на актуална и обществено значима информация. Всяка журналистическа дейност е проява на свободата на словото в правовата държава. Ограничаване свободата на изразяване и информация е допустимо само в рамките на необходимото в едно демократично общество, съгласно чл. 52, параграф 1 от Хартата на основните права на ЕС и чл. 10, параграф 2 от Европейската конвенция за защита правата на човека и основните свободи. По своята същност журналистическата дейност изисква разпространяване на информация по въпроси от обществен интерес. За да се обработва информация за целите на журналистическата дейност, информацията трябва да касае въпроси относно ценности, които с оглед на засегнатите отношения, са действително обществено важни.