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Celebrity snooped on 80 times – Data chief

A HSE official inappropriately accessed a State database in order to check the records of their son's girlfriend.

A "worrying degree" of snooping on personal welfare records has been revealed by the Data Protection Commissioner.

According to Commissioner Billy Hawkes, his office found a "disturbing failure of governance in some of the public bodies investigated".

One "high-profile" figure had their records pried upon by officers some 80 times, according to the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner.

While an on-the-spot audit of the Garda PULSE System last year found that files relating to a number of well-known figures were accessed despite having "no connection" with official garda business.

Certain gardai also snooped on the records of a second celebrity on 50 occasions – while three high-profile media personalities and a well-known intercounty GAA player had their files inappropriately accessed.

The breach by some gardai was raised by the Data Commissioner with senior garda management as a "matter of urgency".

The agency was highly critical of State bodies, such as the HSE, and found a "worrying degree" of inappropriate access to the Department of Social Protection's welfare database known as INFOSYS.

The report states the reasons for accessing people's information ranged from the "bizarre to the banal". In one example, a HSE employee was found searching the database in order to check the records of their son's girlfriend.

Mr Hawkes said his office uncovered cases of inappropriate access within the HSE that "indicated an unacceptable lack of awareness within the HSE as to what actually constituted inappropriate access".

The issue of the inappropriate use of the PULSE system is detailed in the Data Protection Commissioner's annual report.