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Data Commissioner defends light-touch regulation

THE Data Protection Commissioner has defended the way he deals with big tech companies here, dismissing concerns that his office was too weak.

Billy Hawkes and the rest of his team have been criticised for pursuing what has been described as "light touch" regulation of the likes of Facebook and Google and how they handle customer data.

Speaking in Dublin, Mr Hawkes said he had no concerns about how his office handled the big tech firms here.

"We don't go for a confrontational form of regulation, but we are just as tough as other regulators around Europe," he said.

The commissioner also dismissed worries that his staff was undermanned when it came to taking on companies that make billions of euro every year.

"We have the full support of government, and it has been made clear to me that the resources will be available if more big IT firms set up in Ireland.

The EU is working on new regulations governing how companies handle data, with the "right to be forgotten" expected to be at the forefront of any new regulation.

There is a danger that the regulation could be watered down into a mere "directive" which could be interpreted differently by all 27 EU member states.

"Clearly that would not be ideal for us, as we are the lead regulator for the likes of Facebook in Europe," said Mr Hawke.

"I would much prefer the EU ruling to be a regulation rather than having to deal with 27 interpretations of a directive," he added.

Facebook's global vice-president for public policy Marne Levine, meanwhile, warned that the any new law would need to be "smart" if it is to allow Europe to continue to attract innovation.

"Any new law must focus on delivering strong data protection standards, but also growth," she claimed.

Irish Independent