Dublin City Council to review data warning over dumping poster

Data Protection Commissioner concerned over photos of people dumping rubbish

Frankfort Cottages in Dublin, close to the Five Lamps: Dublin City Council  displayed a poster with images of people caught dumping litter in the lane. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Frankfort Cottages in Dublin, close to the Five Lamps: Dublin City Council displayed a poster with images of people caught dumping litter in the lane. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


Dublin City Council officials will today consider their response to the Data Protection Commissioner’s warning over the council’s use of photographs of people dumping illegally.

The council’s central area committee, which includes the north inner city, have met and councillors gave strong, though not unanimous backing, to the new policy, notwithstanding the commissioner’s apparent reservations.

The policy also generated much debate online and an online poll, albeit unscientific, registered 92 per cent rejection of the suggestion that the council had invaded people’s privacy by publishing the photographs of miscreants.

“This initiative seems to be working,” said Cllr Christy Burke (Independent) after the meeting. “I understand that some of the people [shown in the photographs] have been doing hoola-hoops into the [council’s] Seán MacDermott Street office asking for it to be taken down. So clearly, it’s working.”

The photographs are a selection of 12 images taken from closed circuit television cameras that the council mounted in and around the Amiens Street-Five Lamps area. Mounted in poster form, they show identifiable people leaving rubbish illegally at a lane, Frankfort Cottages, linking Amiens Street and Killarney Street.

“Dumpers . . . we’re watching, we’re prosecuting,” says a message on the display of photos.

A separate sign beside warns would-be illegal dumpers: “CCTV in operation.”

Personal data

Data Protection Commissioner

“It should be pointed out that the processing of personal data must be done fairly, demonstrate proportionality and not be overly prejudicial to the fundamental right of the individual to data privacy,” said a spokeswoman.

No one from the commissioner’s office was available to discuss the concerns on foot of the public’s reaction, which largely has been supportive of the council’s actions.

“The Data Protection Commissioner is unhappy that those who dump their rubbish in public places are being denied their privacy. Would she ever get real?” Anthony Lawless commented on Facebook.

“So let me get this right,” wrote Jeff Flood. “The Data Protection Commissioner is concerned about the sharing of information clearly illustrating persons committing criminal acts? Their names and addresses should be shared in a public forum stating the criminal acts committed . . . namely littering in a public place. Jesus wept.”

“Let the data commission go out and clean it up then,” suggested Eoin O’Sullivan. “This is a great idea and we can shame people into not doing it. The people are clearly breaking a law so surely their rights to privacy on this matter have been surrendered.”

Cllr Janice Boylan (Sinn Féin) strongly supported the council’s action.

“The north inner city has been a litter black spot,” she said. “If it takes for somebody to be shamed, I think it has worked. We all know who [the dumpers] and I’d like to see them shamed.”

But Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon was not so sure.

“I understand the need for action and holding people to account,” he said, but added that he felt it was “a dangerous precedent using shame to enforce the law”. He said he would prefer “absentee landlords who don’t provide waste disposal” and private waste contractors to be the focus of public ire.

Today, the council’s assistant area manager Eileen Gleeson and her colleagues will draft a response to the data commissioner. Council spokesman John McPartlan said the case would be made that the council’s action was “proportionate to the issue”.

“We have tried everything to try to stop dumping at that spot. We’ll make the case [to the commissioner] and await the response,” he said.