Friday, 24 May 2013

Data Protection Commissioner publishes 2012 Annual Report

It has been an eventful week for the issue of data protection and privacy law. On Tuesday the 21st of May last the Data Protection Commissioner published his 2012 Annual Report. During his press release Mr Hawkes outlined a number of concerning data protection issues. He stated that a 'worrying degree' of inappropriate access to personal data by State employees was detected in audit carried out by them. He expressed that these breaches and intrusion on privacy rights display a serious lack of awareness within the HSE as to what actually constituted appropriate access. Mr Hawkes also emphasised the need for additional resources for his office to cope with the increased growth in complaints received by the Office.

The on-going saga involving Justice Minister Alan Shatter and T.D. Mick Wallace also raises issues within data protection and privacy law. Mr Shatter revealed during a debate on RTÉ last week that Mr Wallace had been seen by gardaí using a mobile phone while driving. He said he learned of the incident during a briefing with members of the garda about penalty points. The Data Protection Commissioner has said he would be willing to investigate the matter fully if he received a formal complaint from Mr Wallace about improper use of private information. The decision of Mr Shatter to reveal such confidential information on national television undermines an Garada Síochana as a public body whose duties include safeguarding records and confidential information of citizens. It is likely that the data protection breach here will be investigated further.

On the 24th of May last the Irish Times reported that Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton intends to make births, deaths and marriages accessible online for the first time. The relevant legislation permitting the creation of the online register is the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2013. The development is aimed combatting fraudulent social welfare claims. Birth, Death and Marriage Certificates can be taken up at the public office on application together with the prescribed fee. The creation of a database of such information will no doubt have implications for data protection and privacy law.