Derecho intimidad

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This title, commonly used as a sentence to reassure or support performers going on stage, summarizes the First Chamber of the Supreme Court’s judgment of November 7, 2019. The Supreme Court found a violation of the claimant’s right to privacy. The judgment declared that the respondent, a company owning a plot in Ibiza neighboring the claimant’s house, violated the claimant’s right to privacy because it had recording cameras facing the claimant’s yard.

This case is particularly interesting because, despite their orientation, the cameras were not real and therefore they did not record anything. So, according to the respondent, there was no interference with the claimant’s privacy.

The court of first instance dismissed the claim. It ruled that the cameras could not record any footage of the claimant’s private life inside his house because (i) the cameras were not real; (ii) they were merely deterrent, and (iii) they were too far away from the claimant’s plot.

The Provincial Court of Appeal of the Balearic Islands reversed the first instance judgment and ordered the respondent to stop any interference with the claimant’s right to privacy and to refrain from that behavior in the future. According to the Provincial Court of Appeal of the Balearic Islands, the essence of the right to privacy is that “everyone is entitled to enjoy reasonable tranquility and peace of mind.” Precisely because the claimant had no way to know that the cameras were not real, them being there although they were not recording still affected the claimant’s tranquility and peace of mind.

The Supreme Court upheld the Provincial Court’s ruling. In line with the Provincial Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court argued that no one should endure the constant uncertainty of whether the camera facing his or her yard is recording, particularly if (as in the case at hand) the camera’s external appearance does not reveal if it is working.

According to the Supreme Court’s judgment, the claimant was unable “to fully enjoy his right to privacy, since he could only achieve this in a state of tranquility and peace of mind that was disrupted by the cameras.” Because of this, “the claimant had reasonable doubts about whether he was being watched in his private life.”

It is a noteworthy judgment. The facts of the case hardly fall within the scope of Article 7 of Act 1/82 regarding civil protection of the right to honor, personal and family privacy and image itself, since this provision precludes capturing, recording and playing images and footage, and it refers to means suitable for those actions. However, the Supreme Court’s judgment confirmed the interpretation of certain provincial courts regarding video surveillance cameras.

This judgment will likely have a significant impact on any clashes between the right to privacy and freedom of information and expression. We will pay attention to its application.

By Jean-Yves Teindas

This post is also available in: Español



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