Government defends data protection regime after criticism

Department of Justice said Ireland fully implements existing EU law

A spokeswoman for Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes (pictured), said the fact that Irish law applied to all organisations which process personal data, including the Garda, meant it went further than the current EU directive. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A spokeswoman for Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes (pictured), said the fact that Irish law applied to all organisations which process personal data, including the Garda, meant it went further than the current EU directive. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 



The Government has defended its data protection regime in the face of German criticism of the laws which apply to the Irish operations of internet giants such as Facebook.

German chancellor Angela Merkel drew an unfavourable contrast between Irish and German laws as she called at the weekend for tougher EU and international laws.

Her remarks were seized upon by Vienna-based campaigner Max Schrems, who accused the Irish data protection body of adopting “the path of least resistance” with American companies.

In response, the Department of Justice said Ireland fully implements existing EU law and the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner said Irish law goes beyond a 1995 European directive “in a number of respects”.

Backs proposals
A spokesman for Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Government fully supports proposals from the European Commission to strengthen EU law. He also said the Government respects the statutory independence of the Data Protection Commissioner and is providing additional resources this year to the office.

“A key objective of the proposed regulation is to ensure a more consistent, coherent and streamlined application of data protection standards across the union. The Minister fully supports the adoption of a revised regulation (rather than a directive) in order to achieve this objective,” the spokesman said.

He added: “The Minister has made it clear that he will continue to keep resources in the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner actively under review (in anticipation of the proposed new legislation on data protection at EU level) and will ensure that any additional necessary resources will be made available to the office.”

Adequacy
A spokeswoman for Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes said the fact that Irish law applied to all organisations which process personal data, including the Garda, meant it went further than the current EU directive.

“While the adequacy of the transposition of the directive into the national law of certain member states has been challenged by the European Commission before the European Court of Justice, no such challenge has ever been made to the adequacy of the Irish transposition,” she said. “The commissioner has prioritised for audit and continued monitoring the data protection practices of multinational companies based in Ireland who serve a Europe-wide user base.”

Citing audits of Facebook Ireland in 2011 and 2012, the spokeswoman said a similar audit of LinkedIn-Ireland is under way.