Data Protection Commissioner gets extra €1.2m funding

Office at the centre of ‘Safe Harbour’ case now has a budget of over €4.7 million

 Helen Dixon Data Protection Commissioner: her office will now get a budget increase of nearly €1.2 million

Helen Dixon Data Protection Commissioner: her office will now get a budget increase of nearly €1.2 million

 

The Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner is to get an extra €1.2 million in funding, bringing its total budget to over €4.7 million.

Amongst its roles, the DPC oversees data privacy issues relating to Facebook and many other tech companies which have their EU and international headquarters in Ireland.

It is at the centre of a landmark decision on data privacy by the European Court of Justice.

Earlier this month the ECJ ruled the 15-year old “Safe Harbour” arrangement - which allowed about 4,500 US companies to expedite data transfers to the US - violated EU citizens’ fundamental rights to privacy and data protection.

The ECJ’s ruling followed a complaint brought by Austrian law graduate and privacy campaigner Max Schrems to the Irish DPC in 2013. He made the complaint after Edward Snowden claimed Facebook and other US companies were being forced to make their user data - including EU user data - available to US intelligence.

The complaint was brought to the Irish commission, which ruled it had no case to investigate as Safe Harbour, and its implementation, was solely a matter for the European Commission.

Mr Schrems took a judicial review at the High Court, which in turn asked the ECJ in Luxembourg for clarity.

On Tuesday, October 6th, the ECJ ruled in favour of Mr Schrems and found the Irish body was not precluded, as it had claimed, from investigating his original complaint.

The ruling means the case will be returned to the High Court in Dublin which will instruct the Irish DPC to fully investigate Mr Schrems’ original complaint and whether its data transfers of EU member data should be suspended.

Announcing the increase in funding, Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection, Dara Murphy said: “Under Budget 2016, increased resources are being made available to the independent Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, headed up by Helen Dixon, to ensure that Ireland continues to have an excellent regulatory and enforcement regime for data protection, and that we are fully equipped to adapt to the ever-increasing pace of change in the digital economy.”

“Funding has already facilitated the recruitment of additional staff by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the establishment of a new Dublin office in addition to the existing office situated in Portarlington, Co Laois.”

“The Government has set out a clear road map for the future of data protection in Ireland, that will both protect the rights of our citizens and enhance the opportunities for secure, quality employment in the ever-widening range of digital industries.”