Fri, Mar. 27, 2015

Privacy Rights of Co-Pilot and Family

CK - Washington.   Unlike American media, German media do not mention the full name of the co-pilot presumed to have killed 149 trusting passengers and himself in the French alps. Why? Privacy laws.

Personality rights, not data protection laws, govern the mention of persons in the media. These rights are balanced against constitutional guarantees of free speech and press freedom, Art. 5 Grundgesetz = Basic Law, which also outlaws censorship.

A deceased person's personality rights expire with the person's passing. Relatives may invoke this right, however, to suppress gross distortions of the deceased person's reputation. Based on ample precedent, the media need not consider his identity taboo when the person made himself and his life a matter of public interest. The facts alleged today indicate that this exception would apply.

The surviving family and friends can rely on their own privacy rights as well as data protection laws against unwanted intrusions. They are entitled to anonymity. By stating the full name of the co-pilot, the media may knowingly reveal the identity of family and friends and, therefore, become liable for damages. The same rules likely apply to the victims.

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