Irish hub to handle Twitter grievances

The Office of the Data Protection Commission (ODPC) is now the first port of call for some 300m non-US Twitter users who wish to make a privacy or data protection complaint against the social networking giant.

Last month, Twitter confirmed to all of its non-US users, which make up 77% of all accounts, that, from May 18, the Twitter International Company — the body behind its Dublin operation — would handle its services.

“Twitter International Company will be responsible for handling your account information under Irish privacy and data protection law,” said the social media giant.

The move effectively means that all of Twitter’s users outside of the US will come under the EU’s Data Protection Directive.

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The ODPC is now effectively the first port of call for any non-US users wishing to file a data protection or privacy complaint against a range of large internet multinationals such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now Twitter.

The move will place extra pressure on the ODPC — which recently had its annual budget doubled to €3.65m so that it can deal with what is likely to be an increased demand for its services.

In a statement, the ODPC said it had met with representatives from Twitter to discuss the issue with them.

“The office of the Data Protection Commissioner has been aware of the announcement by Twitter for some time and has met with representatives of the company at which privacy matters were discussed,” said the statement. “It should be noted that for European users of Twitter, EU law would already have been applicable. The ODPC will continue to engage with Twitter in relation to privacy matters.”

However, earlier this year in Brussels, plans were put in place for the creation of a pan-European Data Protection Board to which users can take their case if they are unhappy with the outcome of a ruling from Ireland or any other European data protection body.

The drive for a pan-European body was heavily pushed by Germany, which appeared to criticise what it perceived as Ireland’s lax approach to online privacy matters.

“It is important that we have a common decision for Europe,” said German interior minister Thomas de Maiziére. “We don’t want to have the same disaster like we’ve seen in the financial system a few years ago.”

However, Data Protection Minister Dara Murphy has labelled such comments as “unfair and inaccurate” and in March strongly defended the work of the ODPC.

“We [the Government] and I strongly defend the excellent work that’s being done by the Data Protection Commissioner,” said Mr Murphy. “We have a long and proud tradition in our country of independent agencies who conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion.”

Last month, a civil court in Vienna heard a civil suit filed against Facebook by Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems. He had previously taken on Facebook in Dublin over claims that its data protection policies violate EU law.

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