An Post seek SKy, UPC data for TV licence detection

Should we be concerned that the Government wants to give An Post access to our Sky and UPC subscription data?

Former minister for communications Pat Rabbitte this week said he would bring in legislation to let An Post gain access to the subscriber data of companies such as Sky and UPC to tackle the “scourge” of television licence evasion.

Former minister for communications Pat Rabbitte this week said he would bring in legislation to let An Post gain access to the subscriber data of companies such as Sky and UPC to tackle the “scourge” of television licence evasion.

 

Former minister for communications Pat Rabbitte this week said he would bring in legislation to let An Post gain access to the subscriber data of companies such as Sky and UPC to tackle the “scourge” of television licence evasion.

Rabbitte said some 15 per cent of people don’t pay the €160 licence fee, whereas 73 per cent of people have a subscription service. It was immediately clear Sky and UPC weren’t happy.

Both indicated they took their responsibilities to protect their customers’ information very seriously, but they did indicate they would comply with legal obligations.

The Data Protection Commissioner said the Oireachtas would have to decide whether the public interest involved in enforcing the licence was “sufficient to justify interfering in the customer relationship” between individuals and service providers.

So can the Government legislate for such sharing of customer data and will it happen?

Barrister Fergal Crehan, who specialises in data protection law, said he did not believe it would go ahead. He said if someone had not paid for a licence, then using UPC or Sky data to prosecute would be a matter of evidence.

“I don’t think there would be any objection to that because it would be criminal evidence,” he said.

But as most people would have a licence, it would appear “entirely disproportionate” to allow An Post access the data “en masse”.

Daragh O’Brien, a consultant in data protection and data governance issues, said the gathering of data from public sector sources or private sector data controllers “often has value, but with great power comes great responsibility”.