Ivashchenko v Russia, Application no. 61064/10
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has upheld a claim by a journalist that the copying of data from his laptop by the Russian customs authority violated his privacy rights under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (European Convention).
In 2009, the applicant – a journalist – returning to Russia from Abkhazia where he had been working on a report, presented his passport, press card, and a customs declaration stating that he had a laptop and memory cards in his luggage at the customs checkpoint. The customs officer inspected the laptop and copied certain folders for further examination. The applicant alleged that the officer had also read through his correspondence.
Before the Third Section of the ECtHR, the applicant argued that the customs authority had unlawfully and without valid reasons examined the data contained on his laptop and storage devices, and had copied electronic data relating to both his personal life and professional activities, thereby violating his right to respect for private life under article 8 of the European Convention.
The ECtHR noted that the term ‘private life’ is a broad term that covers the physical and psychological integrity of a person. In the present case, the search of the applicant’s laptop lasted several hours, allegedly without any reasonable suspicion of any offence or unlawful conduct, and involved his personal and professional data being copied, communicated for specialist assessment, and retained for two years. In the ECtHR’s view, those actions went beyond what could be perceived as procedures that were routine, relatively non-invasive and for which consent was usually given. The applicant could not choose whether he wanted to present himself and his belongings to customs and a possible customs inspection.
In considering whether the interference was justified, the ECtHR was of the view that the safeguards provided in the Russian law did not provide an adequate framework for the wide powers afforded to the executive which could offer individuals adequate protection against arbitrary interference.
Accordingly, the ECtHR held that there had been a violation of the applicant’s rights under article 8 of the European Convention, and awarded €3 000 (euros) in non-pecuniary damages.
The full judgment is accessible here.
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