Wednesday 15 August 2018

Data watchdog waits for information from INM before launching probe

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon at the RDS. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon at the RDS. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ryan Nugent and Shane Phelan

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has said further information is required from Independent News & Media (INM) before her office can launch an investigation into a major suspected data breach at the country's largest media group.

Ms Dixon said she would not be rushing the probe, which will examine claims that data, including the emails of journalists, executives and other staff, may have been taken abroad and accessed by external companies in October 2014.

Fears have been expressed by the Press Ombudsman and the National Union of Journalists that the confidentiality of journalistic sources may have been compromised.

"We've received a breach notification on March 26 from INM and we have further questions in terms of scoping what precisely we need to investigate," she said.

"The worst thing to do is to start an investigation before you have a clear idea what it is you're looking at.

"We're awaiting further information from INM in order to scope out what the investigation will cover.

"At this point I can't give you a precise time frame in terms of when we will actually start it."

Ms Dixon made the comments at Dublin DataSec 2018, the second annual data protection conference, organised by INM Events.

She rejected suggestions there was a conflict of interest in her speaking at the event, given that her office is about to embark on an investigation at INM, publishers of the Irish Independent.

The conference was organised in preparation for new European data protection regulations for organisations and businesses which are due to come into effect on May 25.

Ms Dixon said she accepted an invite to speak several months ago and saw "no issues whatsoever" in fulfilling the engagement.

Details of the suspected data breach emerged in an affidavit prepared by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which wants High Court inspectors to investigate corporate governance matters at INM.

The ODCE has alleged a so-called "data interrogation" was directed by former INM chairman Leslie Buckley and that invoices associated with it were paid by a company owned by INM's largest shareholder, businessman Denis O'Brien.

Mr Buckley has claimed the data interrogation was part of a "cost-reduction exercise". He says he intends to robustly defend his position, while Mr O'Brien has declined to comment.

Irish Independent

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