Friday 24 November 2017

Ex-data protection chief Billy Hawkes rules out move to tech sector

The former Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes
The former Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Former Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes has ruled out taking a position with a technology company.

Mr Hawkes, until recently one of Ireland's most senior civil servants, said he would not take on a job that risked a conflict of interest accusation.

Mr Hawkes was head of Ireland's Data Protection Commission, a job he stepped down from last summer.

Helen Dixon, the former Companies Registrar, was announced as his successor.

The role is one of the most senior data protection jobs in the world because Ireland is home to the European headquarters of several large technology and data-driven firms such as Facebook and Google.

Irish data protection officers are highly coveted by private industry. Senior staff from the Data Protection Commission are not prohibited from taking jobs in the same field in the private sector as part of their contracts, which do not contain "cooling-off" clauses to limit potential conflicts of interest. Some have been poached from the State agency by technology companies. Deputy data protection commissioner Gary Davis left last January to join Apple as its head of European privacy.

But Mr Hawkes is unlikely to take on any new full time role and is "enjoying retirement", he told the Sunday Independent.

He may take on non-executive director roles on the boards of charities or companies - but they will not be in the technology sector or deal with data protection, he said.

Several State agencies have come under fire in the past year over the career choices of former employees. Some senior Nama staff left the State agency to join property companies.

Civil servants may face a "cooling off" period before being allowed to join the private sector.

Sunday Indo Business

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