A revised draft of the UK’s Journalism Code has been published by the Information Commissioner (ICO) and is now open for public consultation.
The UK’s data protection regulator is revising guidelines to make clear journalists’ obligations under UK data protection law. The draft code sets out recommendations and expectations of those engaged in ‘journalism’ using its widest meaning, and the associated processing of personal data.
The current code was published in 2014, and pre-dates the reforms that came under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the application of the journalism exemption.
Under the existing rules, UK data protection legislation exempts journalism from several legal requirements that would otherwise apply to the processing of personal data, such as the responsibility to uphold rights that data subjects have under data protection law, like the right of access. The exemption is intended to safeguard journalists’ rights to information and free speech.
The ICO is attempting to create a new journalism code of conduct that specifies when and when not this exception is applicable.
The ICO’s first draft, which followed the initial public consultation that closed in January 2022, drew widespread criticism and saw the ICO amend the draft, resulting in this second version. The ICO has said the amended version is shorter, less complicated, and more user-friendly.
For people and organisations attempting to determine if they qualify for the journalism exemption, the new guideline distinguishes between “musts,” “shoulds,” and “coulds.” The ICO has also released a summary document with the important details to facilitate comprehension.
The journalism exemption, according to the draft code, applies when you use personal data for journalism, act with the intent or hope of publishing journalism-related content, have a good faith belief that publication is in the public interest, and have a good faith belief that complying with a particular provision of data protection law is incompatible with journalism.
The term “journalism” should be defined widely, according to the ICO. It stated that the phrase should be used to refer to anything printed in a newspaper or magazine, content created by amateur journalists, such as members of the public, and journalism-related content used for other reasons, such as political campaigns. According to the report, factors to take into account when determining whether personal data is being used for journalism include the goals of the publication, how closely the activity adheres to the traditional roles of the media, and the information’s content, including any potential for public interest in publication.
The proposed law also provides clarification on other terms, such “reasonable belief,” that are crucial to the implementation of the journalistic exception.
It is not necessary to demonstrate that disclosure is in the public interest, and you are not required to reach the same decision as the ICO or a judge, according to that guideline. Organisations wishing to rely on the journalism exception, however, must be able to prove that their choice was reasonable. They must make a choice that is objectively reasonable, defined by the ICO as one that the organisation “can justify to another person in a reasonable fashion.”
According to the ICO, organisations can prove that their decision was reasonable by having a clear policy or process that outlines who can make decisions and how, being prepared to show that they followed the policy or process and any applicable industry codes or guidelines, and maintaining a record of their choice.
The new guidance is expected to align with the new Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.
The ICO is accepting feedback on the most recent draft of the code until 16 November 2022. Those working in the media or who use private information for reporting are urged to provide input.