Helen Dixon appointed as Data Protection Commissioner

Former companies registrar and Department of Jobs official succeeds Billy Hawkes

Helen Dixon has been appointed the new Data Protection Commissioner.

Helen Dixon has been appointed the new Data Protection Commissioner.

 

The Government has announced the appointment of Helen Dixon as the new Data Protection Commissioner.

Ms Dixon, who has previously held senior management positions in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, succeeds Billy Hawkes, who retired last month.

He had been in the role since 2005, serving two separate terms.

In a statement, a Government spokesman said Ms Dixon brings “a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role, both in the public and private sectors”.

She was appointed registrar with the Companies Registration Office in December 2009 having previously held senior management positions in the Department of Jobs.

She served an 11-year career in two US IT multinationals with their EMEA bases in Ireland.

The new commissioner holds an honours undergraduate degree in Applied Languages (French and German), a Masters in European Economic and Public Affairs, a postgraduate diploma in Computer Science and a Masters in Governance from Queen’s University Belfast.

She was appointed an honorary fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators in 2014.

Ms Dixon is the first woman in the role. She will take up her appointment over the coming weeks.

Minister for Data Protection Dara Murphy, who was just recently appointed to the newly created Government position, welcomed the appointment.

“The role of the office of the Data Protection Commissioner as an independent body which has responsibility for safeguarding data in Ireland is of critical importance.

“As we move at an increasingly faster pace into the digital age, it is fundamental that we ensure that our data, which is becoming an increasingly valuable asset, is afforded the optimum level of protection,” he said.

“This is a function which the Data Protection Commissioner has performed since the role was established in 1988 and will become even more significant in the years ahead.”

Mr Murphy congratulated Ms Dixon on her appointment andwished her success in her “important new role”.

The appointment comes at a challenging time for the protection of individual privacy and at a major juncture in the development of European data protection law.

Ms Dixon will be responsible for the protection of the personal data of hundreds of millions of European citizens due to the fact that several US multinationals, including Facebook, Linkedin and Apple have based their EU headquarters in Ireland.

A case in which her predecessor, Billy Hawkes, refused to investigate claims of a mass transfer of personal data to US intelligence services via Facebook has been referred by the High Court to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

A decision is not expected in the case - which has implications for an agreement between the EU and the European Union on how such transfers of personal data may legally take place - before next year.