A leading European expert on digitisation and the right to privacy has described the responsibility of Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner in regulating tech multinationals as being “disproportionate”.
Dr Sandro Gaycken, director of the Digital Society Institute Berlin, said that “absolutely it is disproportionate, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, it depends how you handle it”.
He said that a lack of funding for the DPC in comparison to other European countries is “irrelevant”. Currently the DPC is the eighth largest such data regulator in Europe in terms of both workforce and budget.
“In Germany we have too much money, and the Government institutions hire hundreds and hundreds of people but they don’t get anyone good, whereas you can run a body with 10 really good people both strongly and effectively as you avoid the bureaucracy and stupidity that comes with too many people,” he said.
Ireland’s DPC is the gateway regulator for enormous data-based multinationals such as Facebook and Twitter, meaning that regulatory decisions made here carry a great deal of impact both in Europe and the wider world.
“In Germany the politicians are terribly afraid of regulating the big Silicon Valley companies, because they don’t understand them,” said Mr Gaycken, who was in Dublin ahead of a speech on digital technology and politics he is giving to the Institute of International and European Affairs today.
He said that the suggestion Ireland is less in tune with emerging technologies than other European countries doesn’t bear scrutiny. “In Germany the impression among the key industrial players is that the German government is years behind understanding technological progress. Everybody tends to have a poor impression of their own country,” he said.
“In Germany the big tech companies tell the government that it’s impossible to regulate them because the technology is too complex, and the country has bought into that.” “If you’re not certain how to apply regulation to complex technologies, the response, and this is what I have advised our government, the response is ‘I don’t care if it’s too complex, these are the rules, this is how I want it, and I don’t care how you implement it’,” Mr Gaycken said.
He meanwhile described Ireland’s decision to challenge the EU ruling that Apple owes the Irish State €14 billion in back taxes as “economically logical, but politically not right”.