Sunday 11 December 2016

Data office still underfunded despite €1m boost in Budget

Published 21/10/2015 | 02:30

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CASE closed. Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon must now get on and investigate whether Facebook's data transfers to the US violate European privacy rights.

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How long will it take? And what could the outcome be?

The Data Protection Commissioner has undertaken to complete a "quick" investigation - which could take a matter of just weeks.

But Helen Dixon knows that whatever her office does now will be exhaustively scrutinised by the world's data superpowers, including fellow European agencies, EU and US legislators, half the world's global tech companies and, very possibly, European judges in some future action.

Her office is likely, very naturally, to give the high profile Schrems case top priority.

If the probe takes months, rather than weeks, it could put a strain on resources and the Data Commission is already relatively underfunded and understaffed. Other important work, such as dealing with citizen complaints over privacy issues with companies here, may end up being sidelined. The Data Protection office has a staff of 50. Even with a further €1m allocated to it under Budget 2016 the work load is huge.

Meanwhile, there are growing signs that US multinationals are taking the demise of the Safe Harbour agreement very seriously. In a remarkable blog post published yesterday, Microsoft said that data privacy is now a "fundamental human right" and that "the collapse of the Safe Harbour reflects the remarkable evolution of privacy issues".

On the other hand, many US companies - and US regulatory agencies - are still downplaying the significance of the European Court ruling.

This may reflect arrogance or naivety, or simply be a sign that even now they don't think Europe will do too much about any of this.

Irish Independent

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