Access to Public Information
Dotcom Trading 121 (PTY) Ltd v. King
Closed Expands Expression
Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:
Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.
This case is available in additional languages: View in: Español
The Supreme Court of Argentina granted access to the information about a public official appointed in the Federal Administration of Public Revenues (AFIP). The case was brought to the Court after the forenamed institution denied access to the information requested by a congressman of the nation, arguing that providing it would infringe the Personal Data Protection Law No. 25.326. In this decision, the Court ratified the jurisprudence on the matter in cases such as ADC and CIPPEC of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and held that granting the requested information fostered transparency and accountability.
National deputy Manuel Garrido requested access to information about an official who had been appointed to the Federal Administration of Public Revenues (AFIP). In this regard, he requested access to the official’s employment history as well as to the status of an administrative proceeding that was initiated against that employee in 2010 for alleged contraband. The State argued that (a) Garrido lacked standing to initiate the action and (b) that Law 25.326 on the protection of personal data prevented the AFIP from providing this information without the interested party stating the purpose for which he wanted such data —or obtaining the consent of the official whose information had been requested.
The Supreme Court of Argentina had to decide whether the information requested should be considered confidential due to the presence of personal data in the request. It began its analysis by recalling its jurisprudence on access to public information, especially the ADC and CIPPEC cases. Specifically, the Court found that the argument raised by the State regarding Law 25.326 was very similar to the one that had been resolved, against the State’s claim, in the CIPPEC case. The Court concluded that “the fact that the information requested by the plaintiff involves third party’s data is not a decisive reason to require him to prove a qualified interest as the appellant claims” [p. 4].
The Supreme Court was precise about the feasibility of using the presence of personal data to deny access to information: the only viable exception is when the personal data is of a sensitive nature. According to Law 25.326, this refers to the racial and ethnic origin of third parties, their political opinions, religious, philosophical, or moral convictions, their union membership, or information concerning their health or sex life [p. 5 and 6]. The Court considered that this is not the case for information about the administrative career of an official [p. 6].
Finally, the Court referred to the possibility of accessing administrative proceedings, which, as argued by the State, may be prevented by virtue of paragraph “f” of Article 16 of Annex VII to Decree 1172/03, which establishes the terms of access to public information in the Executive Branch. The Court considered that “the information regarding the procedural status of a proceeding initiated in 2010 does not only not harm any of these objectives but, quite the contrary, allows for an adequate social control over the promptness and diligence with which the corresponding authorities comply with the obligations imposed on them by the law” [p. 8].
As obiter dictum, the Supreme Court pointed out that the defendant did not plead that the proceeding was at a stage that could be legitimately restricted from public view for reasons of due process or right of defense.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision expands access to information as it: (a) ratifies the previous jurisprudence of the CIPPEC case regarding the relationship between the protection of personal data and access to information, and (b) interprets an exception —that of administrative proceedings— in favor of access to information, a then-novel conclusion reached by the Supreme Court.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.