Today is Data Privacy Day and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner issued a press release to mark the occasion. The focus on lack of compliance within the public sector is timely, as this area is just as at risk as the private sector of leaking people's sensitive information. A strong independent overseer of data held and processed by both private and public sector organisations is just what is needed. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner is in a particularly important position here as so many multinationals which use personal data as a de facto commodity are headquartered in Ireland.
Meanwhile the Irish Times tells us that Digital Rights Ireland will be serving papers on the Irish Government and the Attorney General shortly, questioning the independence of the Data Protection Commissioner's office.
The papers note that the office of the commissioner, Helen Dixon, is integrated with the Department of Justice and that the commissioner and all her office’s employees are civil servants.
The story goes on to mention the repeated criticisms that have been levelled at the commissioner's office for being 'soft' on regulation. That so many data-thirsty multinationals provide so many jobs in Ireland may contribute to this light touch. An added irony is that this comes just a day after the report into the banking crisis, caused and fuelled in part by a similar lightweight regulatory regime, was published.
So we have a watchdog staffed entirely by civil servants which is responsible for policing the civil service's data protection practices, in a state which is highly dependent on multinationals whose entire businesses are based on loose data protection controls. What could possibly go wrong?
Here's some more recent food for thought.
- Amazon customer support giving out your private information
- Number plate scanning, data retention and the power of combining public and private databases
- As the drive to Internet-enable EVERYTHING continues, security is still bad to non-existent
Yours etc., @loughlin
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