BGH - VI ZR 14/21

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BGH - VI ZR 14/21
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Court: BGH (Germany)
Jurisdiction: Germany
Relevant Law: Article 6(1)(f) GDPR
Article 15(1)(g) GDPR
Article 7 CFR
Article 8 CFR
Decided: 22.02.2022
Published:
Parties: Tenant
Landlord
National Case Number/Name: VI ZR 14/21
European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:DE:BGH:2022:220222UVIZR14.21.0
Appeal from: OLG Stuttgart (Germany)
13 U 278/20
Appeal to: Not appealed
Original Language(s): German
Original Source: Bundesgerichtshof (in German)
Initial Contributor: kc

The German Supreme Court held that the right of access to the source of personal data not collected directly from the data subject under Article 15(1)(g) GDPR may outweigh the source's right to data protection when the accuracy of the information is in question.

English Summary[edit | edit source]

Facts[edit | edit source]

The controller is the landlord, the data subject the tenant of a flat, which is located in a multi-party building.

In 2019, the controller informed the data subject that they wanted to carry out an inspection of the data subject's flat due to complaints about strong odours and vermin in the stairwell. After finding the flat in a state of disrepair, the controller asked the data subject to clean and clear it out. They complied immediately. They then wanted to know which of their flatmates had complained about them. After the complaints were revised on the occasion of the cleaning, the controller suggested to let the matter rest.

By means of the lawsuit, the data subject, on the basis of Article 15(1) GDPR, requested information on the personal data processed by the controller concerning them, including information about which of their flatmates had complained about them, as well as the payment of damages for pain and suffering, and the reimbursement of pre-litigation legal costs.

The data subject failed with their request both at the Regional Court of Ravensburg (LG Ravensburg) and the Higher Regional Court of Stuttgart (OLG Stuttgart). According to both courts' reasoning, the controller would be acting contrary to the interests of the informant under data protection law if the name of the informant was disclosed.

Holding[edit | edit source]

The German Supreme Court (BGH) held that the data controller may be obligated to provide information to the data subject pursuant to Article 15(1)(g) GDPR, depending on whether the information about them was accurate, and referred the case back to the OLG Stuttgart.

The BGH explained that the claim of the data subject would only not exist if the informant's interest in not having their data disclosed or the interests of the controller outweighed the data subject's right to information. It emphasised that due regard must be paid to both the data subject's and the informant's fundamental rights pursuant to Articles 7(1) and 8 CFR when balancing their interests. According to the court, one element crucial for the balancing exercise is the accuracy of the information disclosed by the source. However, the OLG Stuttgart had expressly left open whether the informant's assertion about the strong odour nuisance and vermin in the staircase was factually correct.

The BGH notet that, in the case of an incorrect allegation, it could not be assumed that the rights and freedoms of the informant would be impaired by the information request. This is because the disclosure of the informant's identity by the controller would then be lawful under Article 6(1)(f) GDPR, even if they had not consented to it. It would be necessary to protect the data subject's legitimate interest in order to assert possible rights against the informant from whom the - assumed - incorrect data originated. The interest in secrecy of the informant must regularly take second place to the interest in access to information if the informant has, against their knowledge or recklessly, provided incorrect information on personal data of the data subject.


Comment[edit | edit source]

Does this mean, that a whistleblower can not rely on staying anonymous, unless he is perfectly sure, that his information and accusations are 100% accurate? - This would tremendously undermine the protection of whistleblowers.

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English Machine Translation of the Decision[edit | edit source]

The decision below is a machine translation of the German original. Please refer to the German original for more details.

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