Press Release No: Individual Application 66/20

Press Release concerning the Judgment Finding a Violation of the Right to Respect for Private Life due to Disclosure of Personal Data to a Third Party

On 17 September 2020, the Plenary of the Constitutional Court found a violation of the right to the protection of personal data under the right to respect for private life safeguarded by Article 20 of the Constitution in the individual application lodged by Arif Ali Cangı (no. 2016/4060).

The Facts

The applicant, a lawyer, was the plaintiff in the proceedings instituted for the annulment of the zoning plan of the area where the Bergama Gold Mine facility is also located.

The lawyer representing Koza Altın İşletmeleri Anonim Şirketi, the company conducting the gold mining activities in the region and an intervening party of the said proceedings (“the company”), requested information in 2006 from the Ministry of Interior (“the Ministry”) to use during the judicial proceedings. In its reply, the Ministry provided the company with certain private information about the applicant. Thereafter, some charges were directed against the applicant in a column published in a daily national newspaper owned by Koza İpek Group. As the applicant sued the columnist for the said column, the columnist submitted the letter containing the applicant’s personal information, which had been delivered by the Ministry to the company’s lawyer, for being included the investigation file.

The applicant claimed non-pecuniary compensation, maintaining that the letter submitted by the Ministry involved several information and findings about him, which did not reflect the truth; and that the delivery of the letter to third parties impaired his personal rights. After the applicant’s claim had been dismissed by the Ministry, he brought an action for compensation before the incumbent administrative court; however, it was also dismissed. The dismissal decision issued by the administrative court was ultimately upheld by the Council of State.

As is known, a trustee was appointed to Koza İpek Group companies on 26 October 2015 for having assisted the activities of the Fetullahist Terrorist Organisation/Parallel State Structure (“FETÖ/PDY”).

The Applicant’s Allegations

The applicant maintained that his right to respect for private life had been violated due to the submission of the information, which could be requested only by judicial authorities, to the company’s lawyer without taking into consideration the conditions specified in the relevant legislation.

The Court’s Assessment

It is set forth, as a basic principle, in Article 13 of the Constitution that fundamental rights and freedoms may be restricted only by law. Article 20 thereof also provides for that personal data may be processed “only in cases envisaged by law or by the relevant person’s explicit consent”.

In the present case, the applicant’s personal data were disclosed, in the absence of his explicit consent, to a third person upon the request of the company’s lawyer in his capacity as a party to the action for annulment of the zoning plan. Neither the administration nor the judicial authorities proved a public interest in the disclosure of the information about the applicant. Besides, there is no information to the effect that a criminal investigation has been conducted against the applicant. In this sense, it has been observed that the disclosure of the impugned data, collection of which may be justified only for intelligence purposes, to third persons did not fall into the scope of Laws no. 4982 and 1136 on which the administration and the inferior courts relied in their decisions; and that the interference with the applicant’s right to the protection of his personal data lacked any legal basis.

The disclosure of the applicant’s personal data served the private interest of a third person, who was a party to the dispute falling under the scope of private law. The disclosure of the personal information, which was not linked to the merits of the proceedings in question, to a third person cannot be said to pursue a legitimate aim.

Given the absence of any inquiry conducted with respect to the applicant by the Ministry, the administration failed to demonstrate the grounds and the scope for which the relevant personal data had been collected. Nor did the inferior courts provide any relevant and sufficient reasons to demonstrate that the collection and disclosure of these data met a pressing social need.

It has been accordingly concluded that the collection of the applicant’s personal data and their disclosure to a third person in the absence of his explicit consent did not meet a pressing social need and were incompatible with the requirements of a democratic society.

Consequently, the Court has found a violation of the right to the protection of personal data under the right to respect for private life safeguarded by Article 20 of the Constitution.  

This press release prepared by the General Secretariat intends to inform the public and has no binding effect.