Howlin launches consultation on public service data sharing

Minister for Public Expenditure seeks submissions on how personal information is shared by public bodies

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has launched a public consultation on data sharing in the public sector. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has launched a public consultation on data sharing in the public sector. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 16:16

Members of the public will be given the opportunity to make submissions on how personal data is shared between public sector organisations.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin called on interested parties to make submissions to him on what he said was “the important issue of data-sharing between public service bodies”.

The public consultation process follows a Government decision in September last year to initiate the preparation of a Data-Sharing and Governance Bill, which will address sharing of personal information between public service bodies in Ireland.

“Effective data-sharing arrangements between public bodies are essential to the provision of quality public services, and to the delivery of key public service reforms,” Mr Howlin said.

“I am initiating this public consultative process to help ensure that the proposed data sharing legislation meets the ambitious objectives (the) Government have set for it, while ensuring that information is shared securely and proportionately with proper regard to data protection principles and privacy.”

The policy paper seeks views on the legislative reforms currently under consideration.

Mr Howlin said it was proposed that data sharing would be permitted “when it is for a purpose identified in the Data Sharing and Governance Bill”.

Such sharing would require specific governance and transparency provisions, and would be subject to the Data Protection Acts.

The legislation will address data sharing on a national level, and will not provide for sharing of data between the public service and the private sector, or internationally.

Government bodies already share personal data for a number of reasons, including for the administration of social welfare schemes, medical cards and student grants.

They may in some cases access information from bodies such as the Private Residential Tenancies Board or utilities providers for the purpose of identifying homeowners to pay certain taxes, including the property tax.

All such data sharing arrangements must have a legislative basis and they usually follow consultation with the Data Protection Commissioner.

Submissions on the policy paper or the Bill, or on other aspects of data-sharing may be submitted by email to datasharing@per.gov.ie until September 15th.

They will be published on the department’s website.