Ireland urged to strengthen data protection regulations
THE STATE was urged to advance regulations on the protection of electronic data during its EU presidency by the European Commission vice-president Viviane Reding yesterday.
Speaking at a Dublin seminar on data protection, she said the regulations, which she proposed last January to replace dated data protection legislation from 1995, “will come to a very crucial, a very sensitive moment during your presidency”.
The regulations would create a “one-stop shop” of consistent data regulation across all 27 European member states, allow citizens a “right to forget” where they can ask companies to delete their data if they are no longer using a service such as a social media site, let citizens port their data to a new site, and would impose significant fines on companies guilty of data breaches. Ms Reding said the 1995 legislation is no longer fit for purpose in the digital age, noting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was just eight years old when the legislation was passed.
The proposed regulations are currently in discussion in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
She noted that 65 per cent of Irish consumers said they were concerned about the way companies have control over their data and added that a single set of rules would “make the digital single market work for the tech giants and help drive economic growth.”
The varied data protection regimes currently in place across 27 states were “very difficult, very costly” for businesses wishing to offer products and services across the European market.
Many multinationals such as Cisco and Microsoft have welcomed the intent to streamline regulations across the EU, but others, especially social media sites, have expressed concern about the “right to forget” clause, and the requirement to provide easy data portability.
Ms Reding also said that work by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office on data protection complaints against Facebook had shown how the proposed regulations might work.
The Data Protection Commissioner’s Office gave a progress report last week on its oversight of Facebook, a task which fell to the Irish office because Facebook has its European headquarters here.
At yesterday’s seminar, data protection commissioner Billy Hawkes said his office approached the role as “a prototype” of best practice for how the new regulations might work.