Safe Harbour ruling: Privacy campaigners consider implications

Digital Rights Ireland official TJ McIntyre hails ‘very important decision’

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon: welcomes judgment and fact it clarifies mechanisms by which data privacy rights must be protected by national supervisory authorities. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon: welcomes judgment and fact it clarifies mechanisms by which data privacy rights must be protected by national supervisory authorities. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Data protection authorities and privacy campaigners were considering the implications of the European Court of Justice’s ruling that the “Safe Harbour” provision was invalid.

Digital Rights Ireland said the ECJ had laid out how future complaints should be treated by the Data Protection Commissioner.

“It’s a very important decision,” said Digital Rights Ireland’s TJ McIntyre. “It’s the second time that courts have ruled indiscriminate surveillance is unacceptable.”

The decision will have implications throughout Europe as well as the US, he said.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon, who took over the role last year, was unavailable to comment personally on the matter, but a statement issued on her behalf said she welcomed the judgment and that it clarified the mechanisms by which data privacy rights must be protected by national supervisory authorities.

A number of queries regarding why the DPC did not investigate the case when initially requested by Mr Schrems went unanswered.

The DPC, then headed by Billy Hawkes, had previously dismissed Mr Schrems’ complaint, describing it as “frivolous and vexatious”, and said it could not intervene on Safe Harbour.

Mr Schrems subsequently took a judicial review of the decision in the High Court, which referred the case to the ECJ.

But Minister for Data Protection Dara Murphy said he didn’t feel the case reflected badly on Irish data protection authorities or their European counterparts, saying the Irish data protection authorities could not act unilaterally.

Workload

The presence of US multinationals in Ireland meant the ruling could increase the workload of Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner.

Renewed certainty around the transfer of data between the US and EU was crucial in safeguarding an economic relationship that provides millions of jobs, several business lobbies warned.

The American Chamber of Commerce Ireland said the EU-US economy faced “important implications” from the outcome. Ibec said a revised framework for data exchange was required, addressing privacy issues as well as the needs of modern digital business.