Irish News

Tuesday 29 July 2014

'Social Protection worker used files to snoop on ex-husband'

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Published 12/05/2014|12:34

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Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes
Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes

THE Government has been warned it needs to improve privacy safeguards in the public service after a State employee used Social Protection files to snoop on her ex-husband.

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Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes revealed an investigation found the man’s details were accessed a dozen times over a five year period “by a member of staff who had no legitimate business reason to do so”.

He said there needed to be firm disciplinary action in such cases to deter State employees from abusing information held by Government departments.

“Once again this case highlights the unacceptable practice by some individuals of snooping through official records for personal reasons unconnected with their official duties,” he said.

Mr Hawkes was speaking as his office today published its annual report for 2013.

He revealed the man made a formal complaint after becoming suspicious that his ex-wife may have been accessing his information.

The department launched a full investigation and discovered 12 instances where the complainant’s records were accessed between February 2004 and July 2009.

In the report, the commissioner said: “Varying degrees of personal information relating to every citizen of the State is held on databases within Government departments and officials who have access to this information to conduct their official duties are entrusted to access and use that information in accordance with the requirements of their functions.

“Straying beyond the boundaries of their official duties in terms of accessing personal records amounts to unlawful activity by the individuals concerned.

“For that reason, it is critical that data controllers, such as a Government department in this case, have robust disciplinary policies in place to deal with any breaches.”

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