Coleen Rooney will drink to ICO ruling that non-journalists carrying out journalism exempt under Data Protection Act

Greater minds than mine, and there are many, have grappled with the issue: What is a journalist?

Coleen Rooney sparked a fierce debate when she said she was a journalist in 2008. After all, she wrote a weekly column in Closer magazine. This prompted the observation: 'If you use a toothbrush, does that make you a dentist?'

Since then, a growing army of bloggers have claimed to be journalists, even though they have no training or qualifications. 

But now the Information Commissioner, no less, has entered the fray by ruling that the journalistic exemption under s32 of the Data Protection Act is not just limited to journalists.

The decision involved Global Witnessa campaign group, which investigated a company called BSG Resources Ltd over its acquisition of mining rights.

People connected with the company made subject access requests under the DPA, but Global Witness rejected them, claiming the journalistic exemption.

The case went to the ICO, who ruled in their favour. They said that non-media organisations may be able to use the exemption, even if the individuals involved were not professional journalists.

The test, they said, was whether they processed personal data in order to publish information, opinions or ideas for general public consumption, and their publication formed part of a wider campaign to promote a particular cause.

They also emphasised that an organisation could only rely on the exemption if they were processing data for a journalistic purpose, and nothing else. 

The decision may be seen as another occasion when the term 'journalist' has been diluted. In the ICO's view, 'journalistic' relates to the activity … not to the person carrying it out.

I'm sure Coleen Rooney would drink to that.

Cleland Thom is prinicpal of the College of Media and Publishing


1 thought on “Coleen Rooney will drink to ICO ruling that non-journalists carrying out journalism exempt under Data Protection Act”

  1. Please can you give me a contact for Keith Ridley? We heard that he gave a great talk to a group in Willingdon a while ago, about his life in the newspaper business. Looking at your website, I would imagine he might be happy to do thisfor our group, next year maybe?
    We are a group of senior citizens called Meeting Point, part of Hailsham Parish Church with a membership of about 30 to 40, meeting on the first Monday of the month. We wondered if he could come to speak to us on Monday 3rd July 2017, 2.30pm in Hailsham Church Lounge.
    My phone is 01323 841807, mobile 07772045557, address 30 London Road, Hailsham, BN27 3BW, email

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