Andres Knobel ■ Privacy-Washing & Beneficial Ownership Transparency

Tax justice reports
Tax justice reports

Privacy-Washing & Beneficial Ownership Transparency

This paper dismantles the arguments used by secrecy enablers to weaponise privacy rights against transparency measures.

After decades of slow but steady transparency progress, secrecy promoters have found a new strategy to turn back the clock on hard-fought transparency advances. The core of this strategy is weaponising the rights to privacy and data protection to block public access to beneficial ownership information and possibly other transparency measures. The biggest success so far under this approach came in late 2022, when the European Court of Justice deemed public access to beneficial ownership registers to be a violation of privacy and barred it. Efforts to replicate this success elsewhere should be expected.

This paper looks at the implementation of this strategy and seeks to expose the falsehoods and weaknesses of arguments used to weaponise privacy rights against beneficial ownership transparency. The paper covers arguments and topics that fall into four areas.

  1. Rights to privacy and personal data protection 
  2. Rights that are put at risk by a lack of public transparency 
  3. Arguments about increased risks of harm and crime 
  4. Arguments about who should access beneficial ownership information 

The paper also elaborates on how the effect of these arguments ultimately enables the rich and powerful to escape the rule of law that applies to everyone. 

Additional material

Read this report’s accompanying blog.