No additional funding for Data Protection Commissioner but new reforms announced

Office is to be “significantly upgraded” to the status of a separate office of State.

The expected announcement of an increase in funding for the office of the Data Protection Commissioner did not come in Budget 2015 but the Department of the Taoiseach has said a range of measures designed to strengthen the office are being introduced.

The Government had been expected to increase funding for the office, which is responsible for regulating some of the world’s largest tech companies which have their European headquarters in Ireland, by two thirds or more.

A spokeswoman for the commissioner said today the office had not been notified in relation to the matter but that she understood the funding for next year was still under discussion.

A summary of the allocation for the Department of the Taoiseach next year, published as part of today’s budget documents, say an increase of €15 million in current expenditure for 2015 would be utilised to provide funding for “additional responsibilities in the areas of data protection, diaspora affairs and international financial services”.

It also includes, however, a €13 million allocation for the Central Statistics Office for the 2016 census and 2015 surveys.

The budget allocated to the Data Protection Commissioner’s office this year (through the Department of Justice) was just over €1.96 million. It currently has a staff of about 30 people in Portarlington.

A statement through the Department of the Taoiseach from Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection Dara Murphy tonight said there would be two strands to the increased resources, the bulk of which will come in the form of a new office for the Data Protection Commissioner which is to be opened in Dublin. It will supplement the existing office in Portarlington.

The status of the Data Protection Commissioner is to be “significantly upgraded” to the status of a separate office of State, similar to the Central Statistics Office and the DPP, under the Department of the Taoiseach, according to the statement. This will mean it will have its own individual section in the budget.

The second strand involves “a separate smaller budget” for the development of data protection policy. These resources will come under the stewardship of Mr Murphy, who said the Government had set out “a clear road map” for the future of data protection in Ireland.

“IT will both protect the rights of our citizens and enhance the opportunities for secure, quality employment in the ever-widening range of digital industries.” he said.

“The additional resources in my own department will be deployed to bring leading-edge thinking to policy development in this area, while the enhanced status and extra resources to be afforded the new Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, will ensure that Ireland continues to have excellent regulation that is also fully equipped to adapt to the ever-increasing pace of change in this area”.

Major audits have been carried out by the office on the Department of Social Protection, the Garda and the Revenue Commissioners. Companies which have been the subject of large-scale audits include Facebook and LinkedIn.

The commissioner’s office has also expressed concern about how State bodies treat personal data. In its annual report this year, it said State organisations had “in too many cases, shown scant regard by senior management to their duty to safeguard the personal data entrusted to them”.

Reference: The Irish Times

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