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Door-to-Door Preaching by Jehovah's Witnesses Community Falls under Data Protection Law

Raphaël Gellert


Case C-25/17 Tietosuojavaltuutettu v Jehovah’s Witnesses, Judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (Grand Chamber) of 10 July 2018
– Article 3(2) Directive 95/46/EC (Data Protection Directive) read in the light of Article 10(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, must be interpreted as meaning that the collection of personal data by members of a religious community in the course of door-to- door preaching and the subsequent processing of those data does not fall under the exemptions to the scope provided by the first or second indent of that article. – Article 2(c) Directive 95/46 must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of a ‘filing system’, covers a set of personal data collected in the course of door-to-door preaching, if those data are structured according to specific criteria which, in practice, enable them to be easily retrieved for subsequent use. In order for such a set of data to fall within that concept, it is not necessary that they include data sheets, specific lists or other search methods. – Article 2(d) Directive 95/46, read in the light of Article 10(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, must be interpreted as meaning that it supports the finding that a religious community is a controller, jointly with its members who engage in preaching, for the processing of personal data carried out by the latter in the context of door-to-door preaching organised, coordinated and encouraged by that community, without it being necessary that the community has access to those data, or to establish that that community has given its members written guidelines or instructions in relation to the data processing.

Raphaël Gellert, Post-doctoral researcher at Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (TILT), Tilburg University. For correspondence: <>.


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