Bloomberg loses appeal in landmark UK privacy case

Britain’s Supreme Court has dismissed an appeal by Bloomberg as judges ruled that a person under criminal investigation has in general a reasonable expectation of privacy until charged.

Some media groups said the ruling would curtail public interest journalism as it set such a high bar for privacy cases.

Bloomberg reported in 2016 that a U.S. citizen who worked for a regional division of a listed company operating overseas had been interviewed by a UK law enforcement body as part of an investigation into allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption at the company.

The individual, named only as ZXC in the judgment, claimed he had a reasonable expectation of privacy and brought a claim for misuse of private information against Bloomberg and sought damages.

The investigation is ongoing and no-one employed by the company, referred to only as “X Ltd”, has been charged with any offence, the Supreme Court said.

Bloomberg’s reporting, the Supreme Court said, had relied on a confidential letter of request sent by UK law enforcement to a foreign state that sought information about the individual.

The letter was headed “confidential” and such letters are recognised as confidential by Britain’s interior ministry, the court said.

Damages of 25,000 pounds ($34,000) were awarded by a different court in 2019 and a Bloomberg appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Bloomberg said the decision would prevent reporters from doing their jobs because it removed appropriate scrutiny of companies and individuals.

The Society of Editors, which represents some British media organisations, said the judgment would have a chilling effect on public interest journalism.


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