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Balancing confidentiality over freedom of speech

8 July 2013

In the recent case of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft and Thales v Garcia and others, Thales, who makes car security systems, provided such a system to Volkswagen. Academic experts in the field of coding and decoding information intended to publish findings on a weakness identified in a software algorithm that had been devised by Thales. The defendants argued, amongst other things, that there was a strong public interest in exposing security flaws and that the algorithm was not confidential information as it was contained within free software.

However, the claimants were successful in having the academic text appropriately redacted. The risk of putting a new method of stealing cars in the public domain was deemed to justify quashing the academics’ freedom of speech, combined with the fact that the algorithm was found to constitute confidential information.

This case highlights the importance of carefully establishing whether or not information is confidential before proceeding to work with it and then attempting to put it in the public domain.

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