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O’Brien calls for the protection of personal data through the introduction of robust data protection legislation

31 May, 2011 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD

Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Jonathan O’Brien has described as wholly inept the procedures and mechanisms being employed by many companies and bodies that gather and retain personal data.

The recent findings of the Data Protection Commissioner’s annual report detail numerous security breaches which were facilitated by weak data protection policies by certain organisations.

The Government needs to step up to the mark and ensure that adequate personal data protections are introduced for the general public.

Speaking today Deputy O’Brien said:

“As it stands at the minute a data controller needs the consent of the individual in question in order to disclose personal information to a third party. This is not happening.

“The Data Protection Commissioner has exposed many serious incidents of improper accessing of personal data records in the insurance industry.

“It appears that Insurance Link, which is a database, maintained by the insurance industry, containing the details of around 2.5 million claims, is wide open to data access abuse. There was no access policy or restrictions and there were cases of insurance staff viewing the details of people they knew or those who came to their attention through the media.

“The report also showed situations of banks utilising customers’ direct debit information for marketing purposes.

“There were cases of bodies retaining information which they didn’t really require to carry out their legitimate functions.

“I was shocked by the worrying number of complaints in the report in relation to ‘big brother initiatives’ such as a CCTV camera in a school toilet and the introduction of biometric systems in schools and workplaces.

“Sinn Féin calls for the introduction and consistent enforcement of more robust data protection legislation, with meaningful penalties for violations.

“Today in the Dáil during the debate on the white collar crime, Criminal Justice Bill I will again be asking for the Minister to move swiftly to introduce the promised whistleblower legislation. Any data protection legislation needs to facilitate, rather than inhibit whistle-blowing in the public interest.

“In the same vein we will also be looking for protections for individuals who would possibly come forward with information around white collar crime to avoid the withholding information charge proposed in the Criminal Justice Bill.” ENDS

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