Tuesday 21 October 2014

Commissioner to help Irish Water billing

Sarah Stack

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes. Photo: Mark Condren
Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes. Photo: Mark Condren

DATA Commissioner Billy Hawkes has revealed his office is working with Irish Water to make sure it does not breach privacy rules when billing households.

Mr Hawkes said the utility company had been landed with a Government policy to give extra allowances to tens of thousands of homes with children when charging, but no way of checking them.

People with certain medical conditions, as well as old age pensioners, carers, and households on benefits, are also expected to be given extra allowances.

He called for all agencies, like Irish Water, to carry out privacy impact assessments to ensure they are not breaching a person's right to privacy.

"We are working closely with Irish Water in terms of how they charge people," Mr Hawkes said.

"Basically there will be an allowance for children, but they (Irish Water) have to establish are there children in a house."

Mr Hawkes said the utility could access a State database of children, but Irish Water has previously said households will be called on to self-declare any allowances they may be entitled to.

"Then we step in and say 'as a matter of law you've been told do to that, but how can you do that in a way to minimise the access you have to other stake- holders'.

Safeguard

"That's the way we prefer to work with the State. We prefer to work quietly with the State to try and build in the safeguard as to how state agencies operate rather than coming back later saying why did you do this.

"We like to achieve good outcomes quietly."

Mr Hawkes, who steps down next month, spoke out during a public interview with the Centre for Irish and European Security where he revealed he is not privy to who has applied for his position.

During his tenure he has been responsible for overseeing and implementing data protection legislation over the world's biggest tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn which are headquartered in Dublin.

Irish Independent

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