A recent decision of the Court of Appeal (Moss v ICO [2020] EWCA Civ 580) re-iterates that anonymity is not granted lightly.

Serial claimants who frequently pursue defendants in the courts (whilst also seeking to "cloak" their behavior from public scrutiny), will be hard pressed to do so, without a "necessary" reason. Online platforms and organisations that process large quantities of personal data (and who as a result, face frequent privacy-related actions) will find this a welcome clarification which reflects the core principle of "open justice" and the importance for the world to see who (and what) parties are litigating in all but exceptional circumstances.

Anonymity orders have been typically granted by the courts in order to protect the identity of vulnerable parties in litigation. However, in the field of privacy, breach of confidence and related actions, clearly, the very existence of the action itself (combined with the identity of the parties) gives rise to sensitivities (and often fundamental human rights) that must be balanced. The court must be satisfied that it is strictly necessary to grant an order in order to protect a given aim (which will only typically be granted in privacy cases where the public nature of the dispute itself would "destroy that which the claimant was looking to protect").

Despite these relatively clear guide rails, in recent years, there has been an ever increasing trend for litigants in privacy disputes (particularly before the First-Tier Tribunal) to try to expand the circumstances in which such an order will be granted, particularly when contesting data subject access requests, FOIA requests and other decisions of the ICO.

This ruling makes it clear that the grant of anonymity in these circumstances will be very rare - the principle of open justice will usually prevail.