Confidential Information in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Attorney General v Guardian Newspapers Ltd and Others (No. 2)
    • House of Lords
    • 13 Oct 1988

    I start with the broad general principle (which I do not intend in any way to be definitive) that a duty of confidence arises when confidential information comes to the knowledge of a person (the confidant) in circumstances where he has notice, or is held to have agreed, that the information is confidential, with the effect that it would be just in all the circumstances that he should be precluded from disclosing the information to others.

    But it is well settled that a duty of confidence may arise in equity independently of such cases; and I have expressed the circumstances in which the duty arises in broad terms, not merely to embrace those cases where a third party receives information from a person who is under a duty of confidence in respect of it, knowing that it has been disclosed by that person to him in breach of his duty of confidence, but also to include certain situations, beloved of law teachers - where an obviously confidential document is wafted by an electric fan out of a window into a crowded street, or when an obviously confidential document, such as a private diary, is dropped in a public place, and is then picked up by a passer-by.

    It is that the principle of confidentiality only applies to information to the extent that it is confidential. In particular, once it has entered what is usually called the public domain (which means no more than that the information in question is so generally accessible that, in all the circumstances, it cannot be regarded as confidential) then, as a general rule, the principle of confidentiality can have no application to it.

    It is that, although the basis of the law's protection of confidence is that there is a public interest that confidences should be preserved and protected by the law, nevertheless that public interest may be outweighed by some other countervailing public interest which favours disclosure.

  • Michael Douglas (1st Respondent) Catherine Zeta-Jones (2nd Respondent) Nothern & Shell Plc (3rd Respondent) v Hello Ltd (1st Appellant) Hola S.A. (2nd Appellant) Eduardo Sanchez Junco (3rd Appellant)
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 18 May 2005

    Insofar as a photograph does more than convey information and intrudes on privacy by enabling the viewer to focus on intimate personal detail, there will be a fresh intrusion of privacy when each additional viewer sees the photograph and even when one who has seen a previous publication of the photograph, is confronted by a fresh publication of it.

  • Campbell v MGN Ltd
    • House of Lords
    • 06 May 2004

    Now the law imposes a 'duty of confidence' whenever a person receives information he knows or ought to know is fairly and reasonably to be regarded as confidential. The continuing use of the phrase 'duty of confidence' and the description of the information as 'confidential' is not altogether comfortable. Information about an individual's private life would not, in ordinary usage, be called 'confidential'. The essence of the tort is better encapsulated now as misuse of private information.

  • Faccenda Chicken Ltd v Fowler
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 05 Dec 1985

    First there is information which, because of its trivial character or its easy accessibility from public sources of information, cannot be regarded by reasonable persons or by the law as confidential at all. ' The servant is at liberty to impart it during his service or afterwards to anyone he pleases, even his master's competitor.

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Books & Journal Articles
  • Inter-agency evidence sharing in competition law enforcement
    • Nbr. 19-1, January 2015
    • International Journal of Evidence & Proof, The
    While transnational antitrust enforcement is becoming only more common, the access to foreign-based evidence remains a considerable practical challenge. This article appraises considerations and co...
    ...... appraises con- siderations and concerns surrounding confidentiality, and looks into ways of their possible accommodation. It further ... the existing mechanisms allowing for inter-agency confidential information/evidence sharing in competition law enforcement. The article outlines the ......
  • Criminal infiltration of financial institutions: a penetration test case study
    • Nbr. 13-1, January 2010
    • Journal of Money Laundering Control
    • 55-65
    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to discuss the findings of a security research project commissioned by a financial institution to identify security breaches that could facilitate illicit acce...
    ...... breaches that could facilitate illicit accessto confidential information.Design/methodology/approach – Using penetration and social engineering ......
  • What is said in European Works Councils stays there. Confidentiality and how to cope with it
    • Nbr. 41-6, October 2019
    • Employee Relations
    • 1398-1418
    Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to study how employee representatives in European Works Councils (EWCs) treat confidential information and how such strategies might improve the EWC functionin...
    ...... –The purpose of this paper is to study how employee representatives in European Works Councils(EWCs) treat confidential information and how such strategies might improve the EWC functioning.Design/methodology/approach –Building on interviews of several case studies of EWCs, this ......
  • Careless whispers: confidentiality and board-level worker representatives
    • Nbr. 42-3, March 2020
    • Employee Relations
    • 681-697
    Purpose: The article focuses on the role that ‘confidential information’ plays in relation to the work of board-level worker representatives, and their interaction with other worker participation m...
    ...... Slovenia, andMichael DohertyMaynooth University, Maynooth, IrelandAbstractPurpose –The article focuses on the role that ‘confidential information’plays in relation to the work of board-level worker representatives, and their interaction with other worker participation mechanisms. Thus, ......
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Law Firm Commentaries
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