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Insurance firms at centre of data protection report

THE prosecution of three large insurance companies for breaking data protection laws will be among the key points of the 2012 annual report by Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes today.

The unusual case last year led to guilty pleas by Zurich Insurance Plc, FBD Insurance Plc and Travelers Insurance Company Ltd, on 10 counts of violating the Data Protection Act at the Dublin District Court last February.

The companies admitted to possessing personal information on 15 people that was obtained by a private detective – who was leaked the information from the Department of Social Protection.

The companies faced possible fines of €3,000 per count, however Judge Ann Ryan ruled they would be spared criminal convictions and fines if they donated €20,000 each to a homeless charity.

A full report of the Data Protection Commission audit of "an external agency access to one of the Department of Social Protection's client databases" will be included in the report.

The court heard how the initial probe by the commission found that personal information concerning people's employment histories as well as earnings and welfare claims eventually "made its way to insurance companies".

The Data Protection Commissioner's report will be posted on its website this morning. It will also include:

* The first-ever prosecution taken under updated security breach notifications for telecommunication companies.

* A High Court ruling against a transport company which denied access to CCTV footage.

* The transfer of customer data for waste collection services in Dublin.

* An investigation into excessive use of CCTV cameras at a nursing home.

Irish Independent