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ICO view on Virgin’s release of Jeremy Corbyn train footage

20 July 2017

You may recall a while ago Jeremy Corbyn’s public criticism of a “ram-packed” Virgin train, in which he released a video showing him sitting on the carriage floor.

Virgin Trains responded by releasing CCTV footage of Mr Corbyn walking past apparently empty seats on the train before the video was shot. Virgin said that they had to “take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case”.

This caused the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to consider whether release of the footage breached data protection laws. It has ruled that Virgin did not breach data protection laws when publishing the CCTV footage of Mr Corbyn looking for a seat, but did breach the law when it published footage of other passengers on the train.

The ICO found that Virgin Trains had a legitimate interest in publishing the CCTV footage of Mr Corbyn as they were seeking to correct what they deemed to be a misleading news report. It would not have been possible to do this without showing images of him on that journey. However, the ICO also found that Virgin Trains should have taken better care to obscure the faces of other people on the train and that showing footage of them breached data protection laws.

The ICO did not take action against Virgin Trains as they felt it was unlikely that the individuals involved would have suffered any serious distress or detriment. However Virgin Trains have said that as a result of the investigation they will strengthen their data protection training for staff and will amend their CCTV policy.

If you have any data protection queries, whether relating to corporate & commercial matters or employment law, then please contact us.

Sophie Martyn is an associate, solicitor in our corporate & commercial team. She advises directors, partnerships, SMEs, sole traders and national companies on the full range of corporate and commercial work. She has extensive experience, including mergers and acquisitions, company reorganisations, banking, venture capital and joint ventures, and is noted for her “calm and robust position under pressure”.

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