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Czech Case law, News

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s hacked private e-mails – data protection and personal right perspective for media

At the beginning of January 2016 the unnamed group of hackers hacked a personal account of the Prime Minister held on the Czech search engine Seznam. The emails included correspondence on political but also private matters, especially the migrant crisis, the Czech oil reserves held in Germany. The account was not well protected and was used for state as well private purposes. The prime minister is not the only public figure whose account was hacked, among others are ministers for human rights Džamila Stehliková, well-known theologian scholar and priest Tomáš Halík, whose information were published online.

The information gathered from Prime Minister’s email were published on the hacker’s website. The group has threatened to publish more e-mails if their website is shut down or if there is retaliation against them or their members. The website is in the operation.

The media coverage of this issue was massive and the major media informed about the content of the emails. None of the major media however printed or published online the whole emails, despite quoted exact wording of some extracts of the emails, especially relating to the state intervention in the freedom of expression and interfering to the public opinion.

The Office for Personal data protection issued on 12th January statement as a warning that the Office considers the email hacking as an infringement of the privacy and sharing the content is considered as a breach of the constitutional values such as privacy, letter secret that could be considered as a crime and civil delict of breach of personal rights and infringement of the Data Protection Act.

The Office considers the intensification of this infringement if the content, this information are shared by media. By each singe publication of the information, the public interest value and the infringement of the relevant person has to be considered. This has to help to improve ethics and morality of the society. The Office dealt with these issues in the previous administrative hearings and the proportionality test has to be strictly applied. The media have to be aware that by blanket sharing of the hacked correspondence media could assist the hackers.

Major media created a summary of the topics that were part of the emails, the issues were heavily discussed, the relevant senders or recipients approached. The media informed that those emails are accessible on the hacker’s website but did not include direct links.

The situation resembles the media coverage of communication gathered by eavesdropping during the police investigation of the Prime Minister Petr Nečas and his than secretary charged by the police for the corruption and misuse of public office. During the police investigation this conversation has been unofficially released to the media. One of the main publishing house published the full transcript of the conversation. The Office for personal data protection gave a substantial fine to the publisher. The reasoning and the court outcome will be subject of the post in February 2016.

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About ondrejovae

Czech Attorney/Barrister located in Prague with specialization in media law and protection of personal rights

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Dear readers and followers, I would like to make an announcement that I have opened my own legal office. The website of the office is www.ondrejova.cz

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