'Night Jack' – the pseudonym used by a serving
detective constable for writing his blog – has lost his
case in which he sought to restrain The Times newspaper
from revealing his identity. Night Jack had written about a number
of social and political issues relating to the police and justice.
The Times had not been told his identity in breach of
confidence, but had deduced it.
The High Court rejected his application on the basis that there
was no breach of any duty of confidentiality in this case, and it
did not qualify as information in respect of which the author had a
reasonable expectation of privacy. Crucially, the judge ruled that
blogging was essentially a public, rather than private, activity.
Bloggers often took steps to disguise their authorship, but it was
a step too far to say that those people could legitimately expect
others to be prohibited at law from deducing their identity.
In any event, the High Court added that even if the author had a
right of confidentiality, it was outweighed in this case by a
contrary public interest in revealing his identity. The
author's opinions were strong and controversial. Communicating
details of police operations meant that the author risked
disciplinary action. Wrong-doing by a public servant was something
which the press could legitimately draw to people's attentions.
In addition, since his comments were very political and critical,
the public should have the right to receive information about the
author so that they could assess the weight and authority to be
attached to them. It was not the court's remit to protect
police officers who were acting in breach of police regulations
from coming to the attention of their superiors.
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While companies prepare for the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to take effect in May 2018, another highly significant item on the agenda is arguably the current review process of the proposal for a Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications (ePrivacy Regulation).
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