Treat Ireland’s data regulation regime with healthy scepticism

Lobbyplag report and Max Schrems legal action take on influence of EU data lobbyists

Max Schrems: in 10 days the European Court of Justice will hear a referral from Dublin following a privacy case taken against the DPC by the Austrian privacy campaigner. Photograph: Collins Courts

Max Schrems: in 10 days the European Court of Justice will hear a referral from Dublin following a privacy case taken against the DPC by the Austrian privacy campaigner. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

Not everyone in the Government has heard of the Lobbyplag group, but senior figures wasted no time dismissing what it had to say this week. For those of you just joining the data-protection debate, Lobbyplag is a privacy collective that has been monitoring the progress of new data rules through Brussels.

By Lobbyplag’s count, Ireland is in the top three when it comes to watering down new EU privacy proposals. The reaction in Dublin was swift and blunt, arguing that the report was crude, its analysis flawed.

The report looked at the latest talks on dragging the EU’s creaking 1995 provisions into the smartphone era, nailing down who can process your personal data, and for what purpose. Since talks began in 2012, EU and national officials have faced an unprecedented lobbying effort by data-collecting companies. No surprise, given how big data is now big business.

Last year Lobbyplag, an abbreviation of lobbying and plagiarism, started a website flagging how many MEPs had proposed data amendments verbatim from industry-lobby texts. The website, lobbyplag.eu, depressingly illustrates what it dubs “lobby-and-paste” democracy.

Now the data talks are at the council, where member states meet behind closed doors, and lobbyists are working hard to influence the outcome. This is what has prompted Lobbyplag’s latest report, studying leaked drafts and flagging which member state tabled which amendments.

In Brussels, Minister of State for Data Protection Dara Murphy questioned the Lobbyplag claims, noting Ireland’s “proud tradition” of independent regulators. Cantillon notes that the jury is still out on Ireland’s data protection commissioner (DPC). Or, to be more precise, the High Court is out. In 10 days’ time the European Court of Justice hears a referral from Dublin on foot of a privacy case taken against the DPC by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems.

Two weeks later Ireland’s DPC plays a role in Vienna, where Mr Schrems launches a class action lawsuit against Facebook International, which is based in Dublin.

Lobbyplag has raised questions about Ireland’s data-privacy philosophy. After our costly apprenticeship in financial regulation, a healthy scepticism towards our data regulation regime would be no bad thing. Trust is good, control is better.

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