Data regulator to speak at INM event despite investigation

Journalist Mark Little withdraws from data security conference after alleged data breach

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dix still plans to speak at a data security conference organised by Independent News & Media on Monday despite her plans to investigate a suspected data breach at the company. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/THE IRISH TIMES

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dix still plans to speak at a data security conference organised by Independent News & Media on Monday despite her plans to investigate a suspected data breach at the company. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/THE IRISH TIMES

 

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has said she still plans to speak at a data security conference organised by Independent News & Media on Monday despite her plans to investigate a suspected data breach at the company.

A spokesman for Ms Dixon said that she and other staff from her office still intended to participate as the conference was about EU data rules, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), coming into force on May 25th and is in line with its commitments to build awareness of and preparedness for the new regulations.

Another high-profile guest due to speak at the Dublin Data Sec 2018 conference, former RTE presenter Mark Little, said he would not participate because he feels it would be “a conflict of interest” in light of the alleged breach.

Mr Little, now chief executive of digital media company Neva Labs, said that he was due to participate as unpaid panellist at the INM conference speaking about broader issues around privacy and how people can regain control of their personal data from large corporations.

“I am not going to do this on Monday,” he told The Irish Times. “As far as I am concerned there is a conflict of interest for me as a journalist.”

Ms Dixon announced earlier this week she intends to investigate the alleged breach after the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement disclosed in an affidavit that data was removed from the media company’s premises in October 2014, taken outside the country and “interrogated” by at least six outside companies.

INM informed the Data Protection Commissioner about the alleged breach possibly involving personal data on March 23rd after the corporate watchdog disclosed details to the company.

The commissioner investigated an earlier data breach at Independent News & Media involving a third-party company notified by the media group in August.

A new investigation was launched after the receipt of further information last month alleging that personal information relating to journalists and executives at the company may have compromised and ended up outside the jurisdiction.

The Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan plans to ask the High Court to appoint inspectors to investigate corporate governance issues at the media company on April 16th.

According to details of an affidavit filed by Mr Drennan, the corporate enforcer is claiming that the interrogation of the data removed from Independent News & Media was directed by former chairman Leslie Buckley and paid for by an Isle of Man company owned by Denis O’Brien, INM’s biggest shareholder.

The commissioner would not refer to the investigation into the INM data breach during her address at the conference, her spokesman said.

“While it is intended the DPC will use examples of previous breaches or case studies to illustrate certain points more effectively, it is never the case the DPC would give details on an open matter such as this,” he said.

The conference takes place at the RDS in Dublin and tickets to the event cost €350 each.

The spokesman said that that the commissioner was not being paid or in any way compensated by INM for participating or contributing to the conference.

“The DPC accepted the invite to contribute based on the fact that the conference presents a vehicle to deliver our message to a large audience,” he said.

Mr Little is a regular participant at media conferences after selling his social media news agency Storyful to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2013 for €18 million and working for a time at social media company Twitter.

In light of the controversy around the “harvesting” of Facebook personal data belonging to 87 million people by political targeting firm Cambridge Analytica, Mr Little had planned to speak at the conference about the problem of personal data being held in massive corporate databases.