Civil liberties group calls for review of Data Protection Commission

Oireachtas justice committee recommended review last year but Government yet to act

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has criticised Minister for Justice Helen McEntee for not launching an independent review of the functioning of the Data Protection Commission (DPC), which was recommended in a report by the Oireachtas Justice committee last summer.

* In a letter to the Minister this week, Liam Herrick, the ICCL's executive director, also referred to her appearance before the committee on February 8th, when she discussed her consideration of whether to appoint two new commissioners to the DPC.

During her appearance she told the committee's chairman, Fianna Fáil's James Lawless, about a private meeting she had with Didier Reynders, the European Union's commissioner for justice.

Criticisms

During this meeting they discussed the DPC, which has come under fire from some MEPs in Europe over allegations that it is goes too easy on Big Tech platforms such as Facebook and Google when regulating them in relation to European data privacy laws. The DPC has rejected the criticisms.

Ms McEntee told Mr Lawless that the commissioner assured her that the DPC operates “very much in line with the rules, regulations and legislation” covering data privacy law in Europe. Mr Reynders last month also defended the DPC in a letter to Dutch and German MEPs who were deeply critical of its performance regarding Big Tech.

In his letter this week to Ms McEntee, Mr Herrick welcomed the proposed appointment of two new commissioners to operate alongside the current commissioner, Helen Dixon, which he said he hopes will lead to "a transformation of leadership" at the DPC.

But he said he is “concerned” the Minister has not initiated the independent review recommended by the committee last July, and he warned her it is “not sustainable” to rely on assurances from Mr Reynders in place of a review.

The Department of Justice said it would respond directly to ICCL’s letter in coming days. It said it is “reviewing the findings” of the report that recommended a review of the DPC. It also highlighted that it was boosting the DPC’s budget this year to €23.3 million, an increase of 21.5 per cent.

* This article was edited on Thursday, February 17th, 2022