Legal fight over door-to-door notes continues: case goes to Strasbourg

by Corney 8 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Corney
    Corney

    On 10 June 2019, the Finnish JW organization lodged an application against Finland with the European Court of Human Rights. The case was quickly - by the Court's standards - communicated to the Finnish Government on 10 December 2019. The complaint itself isn't available online but there is a brief summary (see the link above) prepared by the Court:

    The application concerns the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious activities in Finland and their compatibility with the data protection regulations. In 2013 the Data Protection Board prohibited the applicant community and its members from taking any notes for their personal use of religious conversations engaged in the context of their door-to-door preaching activities without the consent of the discussion partner or in violation of the data protection rules. This decision was partly upheld and partly quashed by the Administrative Court in 2014 [judgment in Finnish]. Subsequently, after a preliminary ruling from the CJEU, the Supreme Administrative Court quashed the decision of the Administrative Court and reinstated the decision of the Data Protection Board on 17 December 2018 [judgment in Finnish, summary in English]. The applicant community claims that no similar burden is imposed on the processing of personal data by individuals engaged in journalism or literary expression, by individuals using personal data purely for personal activities, or when the two State religions, namely the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and the Finnish Orthodox Church, are processing of personal data.
    The applicant community complains under Articles 9 [Freedom of thought, conscience and religion] and 10 [Freedom of expression] of the [European] Convention [on Human Rights] that no balancing act was made by the domestic courts. The interference did not pursue a legitimate aim, nor was it proportionate. Any noted down information was either in the public domain or voluntary given to the members of the community. It complains under Article 8 [Right to respect for private and family life] of the Convention that one’s name and address were data which was widely available in the public domain. Moreover, the notes made by the members of the community are protected against State interference under their right to privacy. The applicant community complains about discrimination under Article 14 [Prohibition of discrimination] of the Convention, taken in conjunction with Articles 8, 9 and 10 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 [General prohibition of discrimination]. Lastly, it complains under Article 6 [Right to a fair trial] about the lack of an oral hearing before the domestic courts.
    By communicating the case, the ECtHR notified the Finnish Government of the application and asked the parties to answer the following questions:

    1. Has there been a violation of the applicant community’s freedom of religion, contrary to Article 9 of the Convention? Having regard to the fact that some of the data in question was in public domain, has there been a violation of the applicant community’s right to freedom of expression, in particular its right to impart information and ideas, contrary to Article 10 of the Convention?

    2. Has there been an interference with the applicant community’s member’s right to respect for their private life, within the meaning of Article 8 § 1 of the Convention? If so, was that interference in accordance with the law and necessary in terms of Article 8 § 2?

    3. Has the applicant community suffered discrimination in the enjoyment of its Convention rights, contrary to Article 14 of the Convention, read in conjunction with Articles 8, 9 and 10 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 12? In particular, has the applicant community been subjected to a difference in treatment? If so, did that difference in treatment pursue a legitimate aim and did it have a reasonable justification?

    4. Has there been an oral hearing in the present case, as required by Article 6 § 1 of the Convention?

    Also, when an application is communicated, it typically means it isn't found manifectly inadmissible.

    The applicant organization is represented by Petr Muzny, one of the leading JW lawyers which represented their organizations and individual Witnesses from Armenia, Finland, Russia and Turkey before top European courts. It's unclear when this case will be decided.

  • Anders Andersen
    Anders Andersen
    It complains under Article 8 of the Convention that ones name and address were data which was widely available in the public domain. Moreover, the notes made by the members of the community are protected against State interference under their right to privacy.

    Yeah right, names and addresses are public domain data? Surely not.


    And I hope JW don't try to pretend names and addresses are all they note? They write about people's religious beliefs, health issues, etc. All those fall in the highest class of sensitive data, and data collection may only be done under strict conditions.

    Then JW claim people have freely offered the information to the JW publishers when talking to them. As far as I know that doesn't matter under GDPR; these people can't know that information will be stored, shared and used. People did not consent to their data being used in such ways. It would be different if JW publishers asked proper consent for storing and using the data, but I have never met a JW who does.

    The most intriguing claim of JW is that their GDPR-violating notes are protected....under GDPR?!!?! So basically they say "the government can't interfere with us violating other people's privacy, because that would violate our privacy"...just wow....


  • careful
    careful

    What is of interest here is that some branch of the org has decided to take this to court at all, That means the GB are testing the waters regarding the GDPR.

  • Anders Andersen
    Anders Andersen

    Well I views this is high stakes for the org. After all if the dubs can't note anything, how are they going to properly remember where the people with issues and the foreigners live? And if they don't know where those people love, how are they gonna exploit them?

    Growth rates in Europe have been 0 to slightly negative for decades, but this would sure make the situation worse for the org.

    With current situation JW have nothing to lose and everything to win by fighting the court's decision.

  • BluesBrother
    BluesBrother

    "Well I views this is high stakes for the org. After all if the dubs can't note anything, how are they going to properly remember where the people with issues and the foreigners live? And if they don't know where those people love, how are they gonna exploit them?"

    (I like your misspelling in the bottom line )

    True... British dubs now go H to H with no record kept at all. Not Homes are never called on and only exceptional calls are returned to from memory......

  • Corney
    Corney

    Anders Andersen, this case is brought not under the GDPR, but under the European Convention, and the European Court of Human Rights isn't bound by the GDPR. The Convention's right to a private life is much more broader than the GDPR data subject's rights. And according to Prof. Susanna Lindroos-Hovinheimo, there is "a conflict between two rights to private life" here.

    Anyway, it is not likely that Watchtower will prevail.

  • DATA-DOG
    DATA-DOG

    If you’re a JW, you can still believe at your Literature Cart, and you can send letters to homes in your territory. There is absolutely no reason to door knock, especially with the many Social Media outlets available, and JW TV.

    The real issue is that the ORG has created an issue over the D2D work being a hallmark of true Xianity, and they have also found it to be an excellent means of:

    1) Keeping the flock busy.

    2) Measuring the “spirituality” of members.

    They simply do not want to admit that D2D is a waste of time because it is a core doctrine. They just don’t want to be wrong about one more thing. I’m not sure that the masters is spin could even come up with satisfactory “new light” explaining why “Jehovah” stopped the D2D work.

    It must suck being wrong all the time.

    DD

  • Vidiot
    Vidiot

    As far as I'm concerned, all the Org's legal campaigning for their right to preach just confirms what I've long suspected...

    ...that on a certain level, the WT leadership doesn't actually want the Big A to drop... at least, not just yet.

    If they did, they'd be a lot more defiant of "Satan's World".

    I could be wrong.

  • DATA-DOG
    DATA-DOG

    Why not have a Podcast? Why don’t they use FB, Twitter, and Instagram in an official capacity? They could reach far more people now, then they ever could with their radio station of the past or with the door to door work.

    The truth is, they don’t want that. They want to talk about giving a witness to the flock, but they know that their doctrines would be ripped to shreds, their true history exposed and even more of the public would learn about their systemic abuse problem.

    They know 💯% that their beliefs have no defense and that they would lose current and future members. Their posh existence would end. The current GB want to lay low, avoid being summoned to Court, and just pass the problems on to the next overlapping generation.

    DD

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