Obtaining and disclosing information gives rise to a number of potential legal issues. In addition to possible criminal penalties , there are a number of civil causes of action which may be available to those who feel their private or personal information has been unlawfully obtained , stored , or used. Public authorities are of course bound to act compatibly with the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”). The relevant articles when considering privacy , reputation and disclosure are Articles 8 (right to family and private life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression).

Public authorities may find themselves subject to judicial review if they act incompatibly with these provisions. In addition , section 8 HRA provides for a private law remedy in the form of damages. There are , however , a number of additional private law causes of action also available.

The principle causes of action which this paper will consider are:

  • Claims under s.13 of the Data Protection Act 1998;
  • Misuse of private information / breach of confidence;
  • Claimants under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Article 8 ECHR is incorporated into all of the above and will be relevant regardless of whether a public body is sued under the HRA itself. Additionally , paying public officials for information , or public authorities acting outside the scope of their powers may give rise to a tortious claim for misfeasance in public office , subject to being able to establish a deliberate intent to act unlawfully.

Kirsten Sjøvoll – Privacy and Data Protection: The Legal Framework