Court decisions in the field of tension between transparency and privacy
The judiciary should provide access to court decisions, while protecting individual privacy by anonymizing this information. However, these two claims, based on fundamental rights, are to a certain extent mutually exclusive. This project seeks to determine how both requirements can be met.
In a first step, we aim to clarify the legal situation regarding the electronic publication of court decisions. Secondly, we plan to analyse court decisions and determine how artificial intelligence can generate information from disidentified decisions. Thirdly, we want to assess the positions of the various actors in the judicial system, i.e. courts, lawyers, litigants, media, society, and investigate the opinions of experts and the public regarding transparency and privacy. In a fourth step, we will carry out a reconciliation of interests and formulate general rules for the handling of court decisions in electronic form.
Many courts already publish their rulings on the Internet. The "Justitia 4.0" project, supported by the cantons, is working towards the widespread introduction of electronic court records in Switzerland. Even though technical developments such as artificial intelligence make it possible to de-anonymise published rulings, no interdisciplinary studies on the anonymisation of court decisions have so far been performed. Likewise, the opinion of various social groups regarding the publication of court rulings on the Internet has not been researched.
We plan to examine the shortcomings of the common-practice anonymisation of court decisions, and to show how these can be corrected. For this analysis, we aim to create a sound legal and technical basis and to publish our findings. We will work in close collaboration with the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), the Swiss Judges’ Association (SJA) and the eJustice.CH association.
We will develop an online platform enabling courts to assess the risk of having their decisions de-anonymised. This tool will help courts anonymise their verdicts in such a way as to minimise the risk of re-identification of the litigants. We will also draw up general guidelines for the publication of court decisions.
Open Justice versus Privacy