Data Protection Bill passed after Seanad accepts 105 amendments from Dáil

Legislation goes to President for signature; provisions set for review after three years

Controversial data-protection legislation has been passed by the Oireachtas after the Seanad accepted 105 amendments from the Dáil.

The Data Protection Bill was initiated in the Seanad, but when it went to the Dáil its members amended a number of sections of the legislation, including the controversial provision that increases the digital age of consent from the Government’s preferred choice of 13 years to 16 years.

The Bill has been passed as new rules come into force on May 25th through the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation to give individuals more control over their own data and place more responsibility on companies that use the data.

The EU regulation provides special protection for data held by companies on children, particularly in relation to their social-media use and preferences. It allowed member states to decide between 13 and 16 as the age for digital consent, the age at which companies can gather children’s data. Opposition TDs believed Ireland should follow Germany and set the age at 16.


The Seanad accepted the wide range of amendments, including a provision to prohibit companies from micro-targeting and profiling children.

“Historic decision”

A number of agencies welcomed the change, including the Irish Heart Foundation. Its policy manager, Kathryn Reilly, said it was a historic decision that “accepts the primacy of protecting children’s health over commercial interests”.

Ms Reilly said Ireland was the first European Union state to provide such protection to children, and it was particularly important in safeguarding children from individual targeting by junk-food marketers using large amounts of personal information extracted from them by digital-media platforms.

“By outlawing micro-targeting of children, the Oireachtas is prohibiting the online commercialisation of children, which up to now has been permitted without any oversight. This amendment has successfully derailed the deliberate and targeted profiling of children by marketers,” Ms Reilly said.

Other amendments included those related to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, which has responsibility for overseeing the provisions as well as provisions relating to processing by the courts; and amendments on fines for breaches of the regulation.

The Bill now goes to the President for consideration and signature. Its provisions are subject to review after three years.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times