Data Protection Commissioner

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (Irish: An Coimisinéir Cosanta Sonraí) (DPC), also known as Data Protection Commission,[1] is the independent national authority responsible for upholding the EU fundamental right of individuals to data privacy through the enforcement and monitoring of compliance with data protection legislation in Ireland. It was established in 1989.

Data Protection Commissioner
Helen Dixon
Office of the Data Protection Commissioner
StatusIndependent Regulator
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata

Role and operations edit

The independent role and powers of the Data Protection Commissioner are as set out in legislation in the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003. These Acts transpose the Council of Europe 1981 Data Protection Convention (Convention 108)[2] and the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive (Directive 95/46/EC). However, the latter was then replaced by the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is directly applicable upon Members States such as Ireland.

Investigation of complaints edit

Complaints received from individuals who feel that their personal information is not being treated in accordance with the data protection law are investigated under section 10 of the Data Protection Acts. It is the statutory obligation of the Office to seek to amicably resolve complaints in the first instance. Where an amicable resolution cannot be achieved, the Commissioner may make a decision on whether, in her opinion, there has been a breach of the law. If the complainant or the data controller disagrees with the Commissioner's finding, they have the right to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. The DPC's main priority, if a complaint is upheld, is that the data controller complies with the law and puts right the matter concerned. If an organization does not voluntarily cooperate with an investigation, the DPC has powers of compulsion to require such cooperation.

In 2015, the Office received 932 complaints that were opened for investigation.[3] Investigations into 1,015 complaints were concluded.

In 2018, Martin Meany, editor of, filed a complaint to the DPC against the Diocese of Ossory stating he wished for his baptismal records to be deleted.[4][5] The complaint started a subsequent "own volition enquiry" by the DPC into "whether the church's holding of personal data on baptisms and other Catholic sacraments that individuals may have taken falls under the EU's data protection law, the General Data Protection Regulation".[6]

In 2022, Meany launched High Court Judicial Review proceedings against the DPC. He claims the DPC has failed to complete an investigation into his complaint against the Catholic Church.[7][8]

In 2021, NOYB (None Of Your Business), an Austrian NGO founded by Max Schrems, filed a complaint against the DPC for corruption under Austrian law after the DPC demanded that the group sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to continue with their long-running complaint against Facebook. NOYB argued that the DPC could not demand favourable media coverage as the price of using its services.[9][10][11]

In January 2023, DPC was forced to increase the fine issued to Meta Platforms after a review by European Data Protection Board found that the initial fine was insufficient.[12] European Data Protection Board determined that DPC has failed to perform its enforcement responsibility with "due diligence". The critics have pointed out that 7 out of 8 decisions handed down by European Data Protection Board were against the Irish DPC, and that the DPC "always choose the most tortuous, lengthy and expensive legal route to a decision rather than a simple application of EU law".[13]

Audits edit

Section 10 (1A) of the Acts provides that "the Commissioner may carry out or cause to be carried out such investigations as he or she considers appropriate in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Act and to identify any contravention thereof." These investigations often take the form of audits of selected organizations. The aim of an audit is to identify any issues of concern about the way the organization under scrutiny manages personal data.[citation needed]

In 2015, the DPC carried out 51 audits and inspections of organizations in the public and private sectors.[3]

Enforcement edit

Offences under the Electronic Communications Regulations edit

All breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 for which the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner has responsibility are offences. The offences relate primarily to the sending of unsolicited marketing communications by electronic means. The offences are punishable by fines – up to €5,000 for each unsolicited message on summary conviction and up to €250,000 on conviction on indictment. The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner may bring summary proceedings for an offence under the Regulations.[citation needed]

Enforcement responsibility is shared with the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg).[citation needed]

References edit

  1. ^ "Who we are". Data Protection Commission. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  2. ^ "Modernisation of the Data Protection "Convention 108"". Council of Europe. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b Dixon, Helen (21 June 2016). "Data Protection Commissioner publishes Annual Report 2015". Ireland: Data Protection Commissioner. Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Catholic Church records may be inspected over GDPR concerns". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  5. ^ Martin, Meany (10 August 2020). "Can You Leave the Catholic Church Using GDPR?". Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  6. ^ "Catholic Church records may be inspected over GDPR concerns". The Irish Times. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  7. ^ "Man takes court challenge over retention of church data". RTÉ News. 17 October 2022.
  8. ^ "Man claims DPC failed to complete investigation into church's refusal to destroy records". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 October 2022.
  9. ^ "Facebook's lead EU privacy watchdog accused of corruption". TechCrunch. Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  10. ^ "Irish DPC removes noyb from GDPR procedure - Criminal report filed". Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  11. ^ "First noyb "Advent Reading" from Facebook/DPC Documents". Retrieved 3 January 2022.
  12. ^ Curran, Ian; Scally, Derek. "Data Protection Commission increases Meta fines to €390m after European ruling". The Irish Times. Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  13. ^ Scally, Derek. "Ireland's data commissioner out of step with European peers". The Irish Times. Archived from the original on 23 January 2023. Retrieved 27 January 2023. Overruling a national regulator requires a two-thirds majority. In the recent Meta cases, of the 30 member states in the EDPB, four abstained from voting, according to sources, while all others backed the EDPB position. No one sided with the Irish regulator.
    Critics disagree, linking the interventions to how the Irish regulator – faced with a choice – will always choose the most tortuous, lengthy and expensive legal route to a decision rather than a simple application of EU law.