Data Protection Commissioner finalising details of INM investigation

Commissioner preparing to investigate alleged data breach at media company

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon:  “We wouldn’t be investigating if we didn’t think there was a basis to investigate.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon: “We wouldn’t be investigating if we didn’t think there was a basis to investigate.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The Data Protection Commissioner is in the final stages of scoping out the extent of her investigation into an alleged data breach at Independent News & Media, the country’s largest media company.

Helen Dixon said her office was finalising a letter to the media company under Section 10 of the Irish Data Protection Acts that would ground an investigation into alleged breaches dating back to 2014.

The commissioner said she was “effectively investigating” the issue after another State watchdog, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, alleged in an affidavit that data was removed from INM in October 2014, taken outside the country and “interrogated” by at least six outside companies.

Inspectors

The corporate law regulator Ian Drennan is seeking the appointment of High Court inspectors to the company over the suspected data breach, which, he claims, may have involved communications of current and former INM staff, including journalists, board members and senior executives, being accessed by unauthorised third parties. The company is challenging Mr Drennan’s application.

“We are at the final stages of scoping out the Section 10 letter to make sure it covers what we needed to cover and leaves open the eventuality that we can pursue any strands of the investigation that we would deem necessary,” Ms Dixon told The Irish Times.

‘Ongoing engagement’

Her office was in “ongoing engagement” with INM and had “procured significant information” from the company, “so it is a significant piece of work for the office at this stage in terms of the application of resources to it,” the commissioner said.

She declined to comment on the disclosure by INM in reply to Mr Drennan’s case that the back-up tapes associated with the suspected data breach were decommissioned and destroyed in February as part of housekeeping in preparation for new data protection laws due to be introduced this month.

“Because it’s an open investigation, I don’t really want to express any views on the issues,” said Ms Dixon, but added more generally about her office’s examination of the company: “We wouldn’t be investigating if we didn’t think there was a basis to investigate.”