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Privacy experts urge Government to appoint more data protection commissioners

The Department of Justice has confirmed it asked officials to consider beefing up DPC’s office


Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Irish Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Privacy advocates and academics want the Government to increase the number of data protection commissioners in Ireland, as it now says it might do.

This week, the Department of Justice confirmed to the Irish Independent that Minister Heather Humphreys has asked officials to consider the appointment of additional commissioners to the DPC’s office.

It would mean Helen Dixon, who is the DPC’s sole headline commissioner, sharing the role.

“The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has pushed for two additional commissioners for some time,” ICCL senior fellow Dr Johnny Ryan told the Irish Independent. “It is essential that the process of appointment be transparent. It is also essential that there must be an independent review of how to strengthen and reform the DPC.”

Other data privacy experts are also encouraging the Government to follow through on tentative plans to increase the number of commissioners.

“It was provided for in the Data Protection Act in 2018, when the GDPR was incorporated into Irish law, and it should have been done then as part of the establishment of the Commission in its current form,” said Eoin O’Dell, associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin.

However, some experts say that the Government needs to clearly map out what it would want additional commissioners to do.

“More bodies at the table does not necessarily increase the quality of the dinner,” said Daragh O’Brien, managing director of Castlebridge, an Irish data privacy firm.

“We need to be clear what problem additional commissioners will solve. The objectives and terms of reference of any review need to be published and there needs to be appropriate structures in place to ensure that any additional commissioners are effective in executing their roles.”

A spokesperson for the DPC’s office declined to comment on the issue.

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Ireland’s DPC has regulatory responsibility for much of Europe’s tech sector. It recently handed out a €225m fine to Facebook-owned Whatsapp, which is being appealed by the social media giant.

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