skip to content
Thursday, 29 July 2021

European Data Protection Laws and Freedom of ExpressionEuropean data protection legislation and freedom of expression have been recognised as having a tense and difficult interaction for a long time.  However, both the nature of, and debates about, that interaction have frequently been conceived narrowly as concerned only with journalism.  Understandings of this area have often also been shrouded in considerable confusion.   With the rise to prominence of search engines, social media and concept of a 'right to be forgotten', a focus just on journalism is clearly incomplete.  However, these developments only add to a varied freedom of expression landscape which anyway must accommodate artistic and literary production, academic expression and knowledge facilitation activities such as public archiving and scientific research.  Meanwhile, with an increasing focus on the pan-European level consequent to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there is an growing danger that understandings of the precise interactions and debates here will be misunderstood or ignored.  This is because, even within the EU, much of this interaction is - or at least is meant to be – specifically framed at national rather than the pan-European level.

Building on over a decade of research, the newly released Reports  provide a summary of historic and contemporary statutory law and also relevant parliamentary (and associated policy) debates for all 27 EU States, the three other European Economic Area (EEA) countries and also Switzerland and the UK which maintain a particularly close relationship with EU/EEA data protection.  The earliest laws and debates examined date right to the 1970s and the Reports are brought right up to date with an exploration of the range of new legal provisions adopted in the wake of the GDPR.   The National Reports are complemented by an Overview Guide which details relevant pan-European provisions and also the structure of the Reports.  As explained there, each of the Reports looks (as far as applicable) at:

  • Three generations of statutory data protection - the period prior to the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46 (1973-1994), the Directive period (1995-2015) and the General Data Protection Regulation period (2016-present).
  • Four areas of specific data protection-freedom of expression interaction - special expression (including but not limited to journalism), broad expression (especially online), any personal exemption from the law and specific provisions adopted as part of a knowledge facilitation framework.

The Reports are intended to be a continuing resource and will be added to later this year with details of the constitutional/primary law dimension of this interaction.  Please do get in touch with their editor, Dr David Erdos (Deputy Director of CIPIL), at with regards to any errors or omissions, as well as suggestions for further development and improvement.