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The European Court of Justice sides with Finnish data protection authorities. Preachers will have to inform about the personal data collected during their campaigns.
The European Court Justice (ECJ) has found that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ practice of collecting personal information as members go door-to-door to preach is illegal, because members are effectively compiling a personal data register, which should comply with data protection regulations.
A preliminary ruling of the ECJ says the Jehova’s Witnesses and their preachers, are processing personal data.
The case was brought to the EU court by the Finnish data-protection authorities. They argued the religious group was not allowed to store people’s details without their consent.
The Jehova’s Witnesses had alleged that the collection of personal information about the people they visit was made on an individual basis, but the EU court said these activities are organised and personal data (including home address, religion, age) is used on an organisational level.
An official ruling is expected from Finland’s Supreme Administrative Court, Finnish news website YLE said. According to the ECJ, “the role of a national court is to rule on the matter in accordance with the findings of the union’s court”.
The ruling could affect similar activities of other religious groups.
The new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (known as GDPR) was introduced in May to give more protection to individuals.
ANOTHER SETBACK FOR THE JW’S
The Jehova’s Witnesses suffered a strong setback in 2016, when Russia banned all their activities and designated them as an “extremist group”. Human Rights NGOs and Christian groups said the decision collides with religious freedom.