Data watchdog receives 31,500 queries in 2015

The Data Protection Commissioner received 31,455 queries in 2015, many of which related to complaints surrounding electronic direct marketing.

In total the DPC received 14,427 queries by email, 16,173 by phone, and 855 by post, according to its annual report, published yesterday.

Some 932 were opened as complaints for investigation and over 60% of those related to access rights.

The high level of complaints, the report suggests, shows “the extent of the difficulties some individuals experience exercising their statutory right of access”.

The next largest portion of complaints related to electronic direct marketing.

While most disputes were resolved amicably, commissioner Helen Dixon made formal decisions in 52 cases, 43 of which upheld a complaint.

One complaint upheld by the commissioner related to CCTV cameras being used in certain areas of the workplace.

A supermarket worker was dismissed from her job after she placed a paper bag over a CCTV camera in the staff canteen. She was on an official break and her colleague was styling her hair. In that case, the commissioner found the employer had breached data protection laws.

Several other complaints the commissioner upheld related to CCTV monitoring.

Separate to this area of complaints is the issue of information on the internet and a person’s right to be forgotten.

Ms Dixon said a major focus of her office in 2015 was liaising with technology companies that have headquarters here in order to deal with this matter.

The office engaged with companies such as Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and Facebook in 2015.

“Our engaged approach to interacting with the many tech multinationals based here, as well as other public and private sector organisations, continues to be central to our role/ensuring that data protection rights are upheld, while also ensuring access to digital services that many enjoy and even rely upon,” said Ms Dixon.

Another function of the office is to carry out audits of organisations to ascertain how compliant they are with data protection law.

Some businesses audited in 2015 by the DPC included Aer Lingus, Littlewoods, Aldi, Bank of Ireland, and Zurich Insurance.

“Although the inspection teams found that there was a reasonably high awareness of, and compliance with, data protection principles in the organisations that were inspected, the majority required immediate remedial action in certain areas,” states the report.

From an international perspective, the DPC took part in a global survey (GWEN Sweep) last year which looked at practices of websites and mobile applications aimed at young people.

Results from this global study found that 41% of the websites and apps surveyed raised major concerns, specifically relating to the level of personal data collected and then shared with third parties.

Other results found that 67% of apps and sites studies collected children’s personal information and 22% gave young people the opportunity to provide their phone number.

A further 71% of the sites and apps did not offer an easy route to deleting account information.


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