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Confidentiality is defeated by publication; privacy is not

24 May 2011

Mr Justice Tugendhat recently held that “the court does not grant injunctions which would be futile”.

But yesterday, Tugendhat refused to remove the anonymity granted to the claimant in CTB v News Group Newspapers even though his identity had been disclosed in parliament.

The judge said that the question that had been asked in parliament about it and the “tens of thousands of people” that named the claimant strengthened the claimant’s claim to need protection, and the order remains in place to protect him from “taunting and other intrusion and harassment in the print media”.

The courts held in the Spycatcher case that confidentiality is destroyed by public dissemination – but the purpose of a privacy injunction is not just to keep a matter secret – it is also there to prevent intrusion and harassment. The decision is courageous and well reasoned – but it must rather grate with businesses that are told that they cannot prevent continued misuse of their confidential information once it has become public.

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