CJEU - C-465/00 - Österreichischer Rundfunk

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CJEU - C-465/00 Österreichischer Rundfunk
Court: CJEU
Jurisdiction: European Union
Relevant Law:
Article 6 Directive 95/46/EC
Article 7 Directive 95/46/EC
Decided: 20.05.2003
Parties: Österreichischer Rundfunk
Case Number/Name: C-465/00 Österreichischer Rundfunk
European Case Law Identifier: ECLI:EU:C:2003:294
Reference from: VfGH (Austria)
Language: 24 EU Languages
Original Source: Judgement
Initial Contributor: mg

The CJEU found that a national law authorising the disclosure of public employees’ income is not in conflict with EU law. However, it is for the national courts to ascertain whether disclosure of employees’ names is proportionate.

English Summary


Some Austrian public authorities and undertakings refused to provide a State control body with access to personal data concerning salaries and incomes of their employees. In doing so, they violated Austrian law. The Austrian Constitutional Court, however, suspected that such a national law may have been in violation of Directive 95/46/EC. In particular, the provision on which disclosure of employees’ data was based seemed in conflict with Articles 6(1)(b) and (c), namely purpose limitation and data minimization. In the opinion of the Austrian Constitutional Court, legal bases under Articles 7(c) and (e) of the Directive – i.e. legal obligation and public interest – should be read in light of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which protects privacy and family life.

Therefore, the Austrian Constitutional Court referred the matter to the Court of Justice.


The CJEU had to answer the question whether Directive 95/46/EC precluded the adoption of national law authorizing a State control body to collect and communicate, for the purpose of publication, data on the income of people employed by public bodies. The CJEU stated that processing of personal data should take place only in compliance with data protection principles and on grounds of a valid legal basis. Moreover, being privacy a fundamental right protected by the ECHR, interference with it should respect Article 8 of the Convention.

To ascertain whether processing was compliant with the Convention, the CJEU performed a four-steps test commonly used by the European Court of Human Rights. It ascertained:

  1. the existence of an interference with privacy in the facts at issue;
  2. that interference was in accordance with Austrian law;
  3. that the measure had a legitimate aim, namely to put pressure on public bodies so that they kept employees’ salaries within reasonable limits and did not burden State’s finances;
  4. that proportionality was respected. In principle, taxpayers in a democratic society have a right to know how public revenues are used by public administrations. However, there were some doubts concerning the necessity to state the names of the individual employees in connection with their income.

In conclusion, the CJEU found that a processing like the one at issue can rely on legal obligation or public interest as a legal basis, but compliance with data protection principles also requires that the measure is proportionate. It is up to the referring court to ascertain whether the publication of employees’ names in connection with their income is really necessary to achieve the public interest goal envisaged by the law.


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