Tuesday 19 September 2017

Ireland expects right to levy 'mega fines'

Data protection rules have become a major issue for businesses and consumers. Thinkstock Images
Data protection rules have become a major issue for businesses and consumers. Thinkstock Images

Conor Humphreys

Ireland's new data protection watchdog expects to win the power to levy vast fines on some of the world's biggest internet firms under European privacy laws, despite opposition from some larger EU countries who want responsibilities shared more widely.

Helen Dixon took over late last year as Ireland's data protection commissioner, becoming the lead regulator on privacy issues for Facebook, Apple and Yahoo! because they have declared Ireland as their main base in Europe.

Data protection rules have become a major issue for businesses and consumers concerned about the information Internet firms disclose to advertisers and security services.

As a result the European Union has agreed to introduce fines of up to 5pc of a firm's global revenue for breaches of its proposed new unified data privacy law.

At current annual revenue levels this could mean maximum potential fines of just over $100m for LinkedIn and as much as $15bn for Apple.

The role of lead regulators like Ms Dixon as the sole arbiter under the new General Data Protection Regulation would be changed by a proposal that data protection authorities in other EU countries can intervene in cases where they claim to have an interest, potentially giving them a veto.

A counter-proposal to demand that any intervention is deemed "relevant and reasoned" would make the system less unwieldy, Ms Dixon said.

And whatever the outcome, Ms Dixon said that she still expects to be left responsible for levying the new super fines for companies who declare their main European base to be in Ireland.

Currently she can only levy fines of up to €250,000.

Irish Independent

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