Business Irish

Monday 21 January 2019

Data watchdog launches audit of business social media site LinkedIn

DP Commissioner Billy Hawkes
DP Commissioner Billy Hawkes

Peter Flanagan

THE Data Protection Commissioner has begun an audit of the professional social networking firm LinkedIn, in a move that may have ramifications for its business across the world.

DPC head Billy Hawkes confirmed his team had begun auditing the company as part of a wider inquiry into all social media firms based in Ireland.

Mr Hawkes and his team have something of an outsized role when it comes to regulating global technology companies.

Google, Facebook and LinkedIn all have their international headquarters in Ireland, meaning regulations from the DPC can affect hundreds of millions of those companies' users outside of the US.

A spokesman for the DPC said Mr Hawkes had begun the audit as part of a general investigation of how LinkedIn handles user information, and was not driven by any specific concerns.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn suffered a cyber break saw several hundred thousand passwords stolen from the site.

Closer to home, in May it emerged that a complaint had been made to the DPC after a LinkedIn employee in Ireland allegedly used private information to contact a LinkedIn user about a personal matter.

In January, Mr Hawkes said his team would audit all social media firms regulated in Ireland.

Last year it completed an audit of Facebook, which resulted in the DPC recommending that Facebook makes a number of changes to how the site handles user data, particularly when it comes to facial recognition technology.

The LinkedIn audit comes at a particularly sensitive time for the DPC. Privacy groups have heavily criticised it for its perceived "light-touch" regulation of technology firms.

One Austrian group, EuropeVFacebook, threatened to bring Mr Hawkes to court in an effort to force him to take stronger action against Facebook after he decided to make only "recommendations" to the company instead of taking a more confrontational route.

Critics have also claimed that the DPC is far too small to fulfil its purpose, with only 30 investigators to take on companies that can have dozens of lawyers and advisers ready at a moment's notice.

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