Sunday 21 July 2019

Data watchdog warns over new plans for 'bin garda' firms to share customer details

Bin collection: Customers’ details will be passed to county councils. Stock picture
Bin collection: Customers’ details will be passed to county councils. Stock picture
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Bin companies face a slew of data breach claims if they co-operate with plans to pass customers' details to local authorities.

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) told the Irish Independent it has concerns over the 'bin garda' plan, which would involve private waste companies passing the Eircodes of their customers to local councils to help identify households without a private waste collector.

The office was not consulted on the proposal, which has GDPR compliance implications for waste companies.

Inspectors could be on the streets by the second quarter of the year. But any move by a waste company to share the Eircodes of customers en masse with councils is open to complaint by any one of those customers.

Both the Department of the Environment and Hugh Coughlan, regional co-­ordinator of the Eastern Midlands Regional Waste Office, had insisted Eircodes were "geo co-ordinates" and did not constitute personal data. The customer codes will be cross-referenced with Eircodes of a given locality, allowing officials to pinpoint households with no private waste collection contract.

Last night, the DPC suggested data protection laws would come into play if waste companies tried to share data with local authorities.

"The reported context of this issue appears to be that Eircodes would be provided by private waste management companies to public authorities to enable the ultimate identification of householders that are not contracted to such a service.

"Such identification appears to be for the purpose of potential enforcement," a statement said. "The [Eircode system] implemented in Ireland is unique to each individual household and the DPC would consider that the processing of such data, in the manner reported, could represent the processing of personal data."

A DPC spokesman said it was a matter for an organisation to justify and provide the legal basis for sharing information.

In this case, the waste management company would be responsible, he said. To share the Eircodes may require, for example, the consent of the customers.

Dublin City Council, which has already put bylaws in place, did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said local authorities were authorised to collect address and postcodes "for the collection of waste" and other functions.

However, it said with regard to the use of Eircodes by a service provider, "it is the responsibility of the service provider to ensure that they are GDPR compliant".

Earlier this week, Mr Coughlan said not having a private bin collector in itself would not be considered an offence and there were no plans to force people to take up contracts with private collectors.

But the bylaws being put in place by local authorities aim to help target tens of thousands of homes not currently using private waste collecting companies. Inspectors will be able to issue fines of €75 on anyone who can't prove they are disposing of their waste legally in a bid to clamp down on illegal dumping. Fines will increase to up to €2,500 if a case is brought before court.

People in 'bin-sharing' arrangements with neighbours will need to put a formal declaration in place, while those who choose to go to the local dump will need to keep receipts.

Irish Independent

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