(CN) – In a victory for privacy advocates, the European Union’s Court of Justice invalidated a regulation requiring member states to publish information on personal recipients of agricultural aid online.
A farming company and an individual farmer in Germany, which both received EU agricultural aid in 2008, challenged the requirement, saying it violated their right to privacy.
The German state of Hessen opted to not publish the information, which would have included the name, postal code and amount of aid received by beneficiaries.
The German court that referred the case to the EU’s top legal authority pointed out that once the information was published on the Internet, it couldn’t be easily withdrawn.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice reiterated that the right to privacy is a fundamental tenet of the EU, the violation of which can be justified under certain conditions and only when necessary.
The court acknowledged that a democratic society should allow taxpayers to know where their money goes. But it said the regulations governing publishing of agricultural aid information failed to strike a proper balance between the various interests involved.
Publishing such data should take into account the period, frequency, nature and amount of aid received, the court said. The court invalidated provisions of one regulation and completely nullified another based on these considerations.
The court clarified that its decision to invalidate the provisions did not make national authorities liable for the effects of publishing the information prior to its judgment.