The law on data protection is changing rapidly and is becoming ever more relevant to Irish citizens and businesses. The Council of Europe has designated today, January 28, as Data Protection Day to "give citizens an opportunity to understand what kind of data about them is collected and processed, why this is done, and what rights they have."
To coincide with Data Protection Day, law firm Matheson hosted a breakfast seminar on the latest developments in data protection law. Irish Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes spoke at the gathering of Ireland's leading data protection professionals, saying:
"People remain concerned about their privacy, particularly in relation to their health and financial information. Companies need to be gearing up for stricter enforcement of data protection law." Mr Hawkes highlighted the need for companies to carry out privacy impact assessments.
John O'Connor, a partner at Matheson, also spoke at the event, saying, "The on-going debate in Europe and the US about the NSA Prism programme and surveillance of EU states has highlighted how important data protection has become to all of us - whatever our nationality.
"While Europe's data protection regime has evolved considerably, the general view that it is no longer 'fit for purpose' and that its needs to better deal with these surveillance programmes, as well as new technologies such as cloud computing and social media.
"There is also a view that the fines associated with breaches of data protection law should be drastically increased to ensure that both governments and large multi-nationals have more than their reputation to lose."
John O'Connor, who specialises in providing data protection advice to international and domestic clients, said that recent high-level trends in the data protection sphere include:
An increased awareness of data protection rights An increased use of data subject access requests Growing levels of data exports and processing outside the EEA...