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Help us stop the Daily Mail’s bizarre appeal to human rights

keith morris / Alamy Stock Photo

The Daily Mail has been bellyaching about the European Convention on Human Rights ever since Tony Blair introduced it in 1998. But now this self-styled champion of UK sovereignty is complaining that complying with UK law would breach its human rights.

Earlier this month, our executive director, Jo Maugham, sent the newspaper a data subject access request – something all of us can do to check if an organisation is using or storing our personal information. But the Mail has pushed back, having the chutzpah to argue that carrying out the search “would be wholly disproportionate and an unwarranted interference with its Article 10 rights”. That’s an article which protects freedom of expression in – you guessed it – the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Mail’s group legal adviser declaims that “our client is not prepared to carry out the disproportionate search demanded by your client. The law does not require it to do so.” Then she makes the generous concession that she will “consider” complying if Jo restricts his search.

The catch is, under UK law, approved by our parliament, the Mail has to give access to data. There are, of course, exceptions to protect journalism – which is defined broadly enough to include even the work of the Mail. But the Information Commissioner leaves no room for doubt:

“you cannot force an individual to narrow the scope of their request, as they are still entitled to ask for ‘all the information you hold’ about them. If an individual responds to you and either repeats their request or refuses to provide any additional information, you must still comply with their request by making reasonable searches for the information.

It’s not long since the paper thundered that “for years, the Mail has campaigned against the insidious undermining of the sovereignty of parliament by the remote, unaccountable ECHR”. But as soon as it is under pressure, the Mail is all too happy to undermine the “sovereignty of parliament” and appeal to “the remote, unaccountable ECHR”. 

Unless it folds, we’ll be suing so that UK courts can make the Mail abide by UK law. And we’ll be keeping an eye on other media outlets too. We’ve made subject access requests to the Telegraph, Guido Fawkes and others the Tories have admitted they’re sharing Jo’s data with. Anything you can give will help us stand up to the Daily Mail, and other outlets, if they trample over UK law.


The funds raised will be used to support any legal action brought against media who refuse to comply with subject access requests. AWO will be acting at significantly below market rates.

10% of the funds raised will be a contribution to the general running costs of Good Law Project. It is our policy only to raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on the work we are crowdfunding for. However, if there is a surplus it will go to develop and support further work we do to fight for a better fairer future for all.

Crowdfunder Updates

  • 03/06/2024

    The Mail folds on its awkward appeal to human rights

    The Daily Mail has backed down, grudgingly conceding that it “will conduct a reasonable and proportionate search” of its records, and pleading that since the request is “complex” it will need three months.

    The paper is still wriggling, suggesting that Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) is the “correct entity to conduct the search” instead of its parent company, Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT).

    But it doesn’t get to choose. We made a data subject access request of DMGT, so DMGT has got to tell us what it holds and what it’s doing. Now that ANL says it also has a bunch of Jo’s data, we’ve made a request to ANL as well.

    We’re still waiting on replies from the other outlets the Tories named – The Telegraph, The Sun and Guido Fawkes. And we’re building tools to make it easier for everyone to find out how political parties are gobbling up our personal data.

This crowdfunder is now closed.

Thanks to the amazing support of Good Law project supporters, we raised £14,673.99.

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