THE Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, has said he is "entirely unsatisfied" with the Department of Social Protection's handling of citizens' personal data.
Mr Hawkes also said that he remains "particularly concerned" about how many government departments and some public sector bodies are allowing personal data of members of the public to be shared and "leaked" in an improper fashion.
"I have always had concerns about how public services handle data," said Mr Hawkes. "And I have noticed the increased scope of data handling in public bodies without, often, proper oversight measures. And I would like to say specifically that I am entirely unsatisfied with the arrangements in place for the oversight of personal data in the Department of Social Protection."
Mr Hawkes said that his office will soon publish "a major audit" of An Garda Siochana and the way that it handles personal data of members of the public. The Data commissioner has previously highlighted abuses of personal data by the Gardai, particularly in relation to access of the PULSE system, which allows police officers to access information in a centralised database.
Mr Hawkes also said that his office is in advanced stages of a major privacy audit of the social media service LinkedIn, which bases its international headquarters in Dublin. He said that a privacy audit of Apple, which has an international headquarters in Cork, will commence shortly following the conclusion of the LinkedIn audit.
Mr Hawkes was speaking at the annual Data Protection Conference in Dublin, held to mark European Data Protection Day.
He said that new laws governing data protection rules were being held up at European level, with disagreements between the European Parliament and the European Council over the severity of penalties and personal data rights. The European Parliament, he said, was generally in favor of stricter rules in relation to the governance of privacy and data protection. One example, he said, was the proposal that organisations processing data in batches of over 5,000 should be obliged to appoint someone with a data protection role. While the Parliament is in favor of such a proposal, he said, the Council believed that such a move should only be optional.
Mr Hawkes said that the more successful the IDA was in attracting large digital and internet companies to Ireland, the more work it created for his office.