Irish state has “scant regard” for your data – and now wants to share it even further

The Irish state has a deplorable record when it comes to protecting your personal information. That’s not just our view – it’s the assessment of the outgoing Data Protection Commissioner after nearly a decade in office. Here’s what he had to say to the Irish Times:

Action is needed to tackle deficiencies in how the public service protects the personal data of citizens before such action is triggered by a “crisis”, the Data Protection Commissioner has said…

Mr Hawkes highlighted a number of issues of concern and said his audits of State organisations had “in too many cases, shown scant regard by senior management to their duty to safeguard the personal data entrusted to them – a duty that is all the greater because of the legal obligation to provide such personal data to the State”…

Mr Hawkes said [abuses in the Department of Social Protection] highlighted “the unacceptable practice by some individuals of snooping through official records for personal reasons unconnected with their official duties”. Taking no action against individuals caught in engaging in such activity was “not acceptable” and it should be clear to all users there there were “serious negative consequences” for unauthorised access to personal information for unofficial purposes…

“the State system in general is not paying sufficient attention to its responsibilities for the quantum of data it holds on all of us”…

“I suppose if I had a parting wish as Data Protection Commissioner it is that there would be system-wide action taken on data protection – that would be the responsibility of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform – rather than have it triggered by a crisis, which I think is inevitable unless action is taken.”

This assessment is damning in itself. But it is all the more worrying in light of current government proposals for even more data sharing. These would make it routine for information collected by one government agency to be shared with others, potentially opening it up for wider abuse. While data sharing might result in some efficiencies, it also puts personal data at even greater risk. The systematic problems identified by the Data Protection Commissioner are not discussed in the proposals – despite the fact that these should be fixed prior to any widening of access to your information.

This is where you come in.

There is a public consultation process on the proposals which requires written submissions by 15 September. You can send your views to (Note that they will be published.)

DRI will be making a detailed submission. If you sign up for our alerts (form below) we will let you know when the submission is complete. Also, we would welcome your thoughts on what the submission should include – you can leave a comment below or email with any contribution.

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Image Credit: Michael Mandiberg