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E-mails and Electronic Records

last modified Sep 12, 2013 12:00 AM


Of 26 European countries surveyed, the ATI laws of 24 apply to e-mails: Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The only clear exception is Sweden. Jurisprudence in Hungary suggests that emails may be excepted.

It appears that most “modern” ATI laws, passed since 1990, apply to emails and electronic records, or at least, do not expressly exclude them. Moreover, some laws – such as Canada’s – by their terms require authorities to generate electronic documents in response to requests, if generating the documents would not be unduly burdensome.



You will find detailed country information that is not regularly updated in our Archive.

Relevant cases


Relevant Cases

Title:Country:Year:Court / Arbiter:
City of Ottawa v. Ontario Canada 2010 Appellate The freedom of information law does not require disclosure to the public of personal emails, unrelated to work, even though sent and received by government employees on their workplace email accounts.
Claase v. Information Officer of South African Airways South Africa 2006 Appellate A retired pilot was entitled, under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), to a record held by a private airlines because he was able to establish that the record existed and that he needed it to protect a right.
Han v. Korean Broadcasting System South Korea 2008 Appellate Korean Broadcasting System is a public institution and as such has to disclose a tape of a news documentary that has never been broadcasted. Disclosure does not violate media freedom under the Constitution and the Broadcasting Act because the request was not for broadcasting of the information and it cannot be regarded as a restriction to or interference with freedom of the press or freedom and independence of programming.
Kaneko v. Japan (“Hakata Station Film Case”) Japan 1969 Supreme The constitutional protection for freedom of expression incorporates the freedom to report facts, and extends to the freedom to gather news necessary for factual reporting. However, these rights are not absolute and it is not a violation to mandate disclosure by the news media of television footage where necessary to ensure a fair trial.
Lake v. Phoenix United States 2009 Supreme City was obliged to disclose metadata (electronic information concerning the history of an electronic document) pursuant to state freedom of information law.
Nazarova v. Ministry of Justice Russia 2010 Supreme A requester does not need to provide reasons in order to be able to have access to the government’s register of normative legal acts.
Phinjo Gombu v. Tom Mitchinson, Assistant Commissioner et al. Canada 2002 Appellate Refusal to disclose information about campaign contributions, including names, addresses and phone numbers of contributors, in electronic format was unreasonable given the importance of furthering the democratic process through public scrutiny and the minimal intrusion on privacy.
Scobin v. Federal Agency for Technical Regulation and Metrology Russia 2006 First instance The responsible agency must publish national consumer product standards on its official website and may not charge fees for hard copies of the documents.
The Information Commissioner of Canada v. The Executive Director of the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board and NAV CANADA Canada 2006 Appellate Air Traffic Control communications do not fall under the financial, commercial, scientific or technical information exemption because they do not constitute commercial or technical information. They are also not protected under the Privacy Act since communications themselves are not personal information.
Yurij I. Vdovin v. Federal Executive Authorities Russia 2005 First instance Federal executive authorities must publish certain information, specified in a government decree, on the Internet.