While we’re all fired up about protecting rights..

Hey you #stopsopaireland people, I’ve got a favour to ask. It’s not a big one. It will take you 30 seconds to do but it may help to make your life a little better

The 30 seconds kicks in as soon as you’ve finished reading this post.

The discussion around #stopsopaireland has focussed on the impact that internet blocking would have on fundamental rights of freedom of expression, and the EU legislative and policy frameworks and case law that exist to support that right and ensure it is protected in a balanced way.

There is another right that is important. The right to Privacy. In particular the right to Personal Data Privacy which is set out in Article 16 of the Lisbon Treaty. It is this Article that provides the basis for the EU’s Data Protection regime, changes to which were announced on Wednesday. Those changes will take a number of years to come into affect, assuming they are not bastardised and watered down beyond all recognition by national parliaments or the European Parliament responding to lobby groups.

But a functioning Data Protection framework is in existence day and it is policed in Ireland by the Data Protection Commissioner. Already this year they have engaged with the Dept of the Environment regarding the Household Charge database and with Dublin City Council regarding the transfer of personal data from Dublin City Council to a private company. And let’s not forget their audit of Facebook last year. And that’s just the high profile stuff that gets in the media. In my professional context I’m aware of the significant number of complaints they help people with each year as they strive to promote compliance with the Data Protection Acts in an increasingly complex information management environment and a financial culture where organisations and governments are trying to to less with more and often cutting the wrong corners in the process.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner serves the individual citizen, helping them with advice regarding their rights and acting to investigate and prosecute breaches of those rights. They also serve the Organisation (be that a Government department, a large multi-national, a local football team, or a student company selling jumpers on-line) providing education and advice (when asked) as to what steps should be taken to ensure the right balance is struck between the goals of the organisation and the rights of the individual. They don’t deal with just one sector of the economy. Anywhere personal data is being processed they have a role to play.

Saturday 28th January is World Data Privacy Day. It is one day in the year where Data Privacy is celebrated. Companies and regulators around the world have planned activities and events to celebrate the day (see here and here), but in Ireland it seems to be just another Saturday. Some of you might say that the Data Protection Commissioner should have lead the charge on this but, to be frank, they are under resourced in terms of numbers and budget and need to prioritise their efforts and energies to dealing with the actual and alleged breaches of people’s rights that come through their inbox every day.

So, to celebrate World Data Privacy Day 2012 I’m asking you to write an email to your TD, Minister, or other elected official asking them to comment, tweet, or in some other way make public

  1. Their support for the principles set out in the Data Protection Acts and the proposed revised EU Regulation on Data Protection
  2. Their commitment to ensuring the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is properly funded and resourced to allow it to execute its duties under the Acts and the Lisbon Treaty in an effective and truly independent manner.
  3. What one thing they will do by January 2013 to improve their personal knowledge of the Data Protection regulations.

I’ve even put sample text below so you can just cut and paste it. You can use the great contact form at Contact.ie to bulk contact your elected representatives (while you are there, why not donate to support the site), or you ca nmake the message personal and send it yourself from your own computer/phone/device/smoke ring maker. Heck, if you want to phone them or tweet them directly about this fire ahead.

+++ email text

Dear Sir/Madam

I write to you on the occasion of World Data Privacy Day, which is being celebrated globally on Saturday the 28th of January (mark your diary, it’s the same day next year).

Personal rights, particularly personal rights in relation to information and personal data, have been in the media a lot this past month. Much of the coverage could have been avoided had proper attention been paid to the requirements and obligations under the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 which apply equally across a wide range of industry sectors, including Government

To celebrate World Privacy Day I would ask you to consider issuing a statement either by traditional press release, a blog post, or a tweet, that will tell your electorate where you stand on the following questions:

  1. Do you support the principles set out int he Data Protection Acts and in the proposed revised Regulation on Data Protection announced this past week by Vice President of the European Commission Viviane Reding?
  2. Are you committed to  ensuring the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is properly funded and resourced to allow it to execute its duties under the Acts and the Lisbon Treaty in an effective and truly independent manner, as is required under EU Directive and the Lisbon Treaty?
  3. What one thing will you do by this time next year to improve your personal knowledge of the Data Protection regulations.

Of these three questions, the second is one I feel is important.  Personal data is the currency of the new economy and it is a valuable commodity. The Regulator for the Personal Data Industry is the Data Protection Commisioner. One of the key lessons of the Financial crisis is that for a Regulator to be effective they must be correctly resourced and independent of Government or industry influences.

I appreciate your time on this and look forward to seeing your press release, blog post, or tweet expressing your support for #DataPrivacyDay, the principles of Data Protection, and the office and role of the Data Protection Commissioner.


If you get responses please post a comment below so I can see what uptake (if any) there has been from our political classes.