Schrems letter turns up heat on Data Protection Commissioner

There is a pressing need for the regulator to act quickly and effectively to dispel criticism

Max Schrems is Austrian lawyer and data privacy activist. File photograph: Getty

Max Schrems is Austrian lawyer and data privacy activist. File photograph: Getty

 

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) has, for many years now, fought a rearguard action on charges that it is slow and toothless when it comes to big tech.

Sometimes, this criticism is implicitly shot through with the suggestion that Ireland’s FDI-focused industrial policy makes it an unsuitable regulator of these firms: sometimes, niceties are dispensed with, and it’s just done explicitly.

Therefore, the release of significant volumes of material relating to an ongoing investigation, spiked with the charge of “secret co-operation” with Facebook, will be most unwelcome.

That it emanates from Max Schrems, one of the most effective and tenacious antagonists of big tech, and indeed its regulators, will be doubly vexing for Ireland’s watchdog.

Mr Schrems has questioned why extensive consultations on some aspects of data processing took place between the DPC and Facebook in the run up to tough new data protection rules being implemented – rules that Ireland’s watchdog is responsible for enforcing.

Investigations

He also raised criticisms of how long the DPC’s investigations take, and the manner in which it conducts them.

While illuminating, the privacy activist’s open letter is not a smoking gun. One man’s secret meeting, rendered less racily, is another’s regulatory consultation.

When it comes to speedy decision making, the pressure for results must be balanced against the cost of making an error; the companies regulated by the DPC are extraordinarily well resourced and will pursue any slip-ups.

Nonetheless, the letter will increase pressure on the DPC to regulate – and be seen to regulate – effectively. Doing so is of vital importance for Ireland, and for the European citizens it regulates on behalf of. Facebook is among the globe’s most effective extractors of sensitive data from people – it uses this data for its own ends, and for those of advertisers and shareholders.

Confidence in the DPC, and in the rules it enforces, will turn on the effective and visible regulation of companies like Facebook in a way that clarifies how these businesses operate, and the basis on which they do so.

The best way it can dispel these criticisms is to act quickly and effectively on the interests of those for whom it acts.

Business Today

Get the latest business news and commentarySIGN UP HERE
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.