No watchdog backing for Eircode

Senior civil servants are to face calls to appear again before an Oireachtas committee after a second organisation seemed to distance itself from suggestions that it was “satisfied” with privacy provisions of the postcode to be launched this year.

Michael Moynihan, Fianna Fáil spokesman for communications, said that statements made by an official from the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources at an Oireachtas meeting last November gave the impression that both Digital Rights Ireland and the National Consumer Agency were satisfied with the privacy measures taken by the Department in relation to Eircode.

Patricia Cronin, head of the Department of Communications’ postcodes division addressed a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications two months ago.

“We have spoken to the National Consumer Agency, logistics companies and Digital Rights Ireland, with which we have had an in-depth conversation to see if there is anything in the proposal that might be considered to have an impact on anyone’s privacy,” Ms Cronin told the committee at the time. “Broadly, they are satisfied with what we are doing.”

It has since been revealed that Digital Rights Ireland wrote to Communications Minister Alex White to object to any implication that it told the Department that it is happy with Eircode’s privacy provisions and to express the group’s concerns arising from the postcode.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission – a new amalgamation of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency – has since said that while it did discuss a Privacy Impact Assessment with the Department, it did not say it was “satisfied” with the measures; it did not discuss any data protection measures; and it never gave any endorsement of Eircode’s privacy measures.

“The NCA, which has no role in relation to data protection, provided some observations based on its experiences as a consumer-facing organisation – these related mostly to the importance of communicating clearly with consumers. No endorsement could be given in this format as this is something which would have to be done formally in writing,” the CCPC said.

The department yesterday said Ms Cronin’s comments did not attribute views in relation to privacy to any individual organisation.

“Ms Cronin, in her evidence to the Joint Oireachtas Committee, did not state that she discussed data protection with the National Consumer Agency,” said a department statement.

“Ms Cronin — in order to be helpful to committee members — mentioned a few of the organisations that had been contacted as part of the PIA exercise. She then went on to say that broadly the organisations consulted were satisfied with the approach adopted.

“She did not attribute views in relation to privacy issues to any individual organisation and a close reading of the transcript will demonstrate this.”


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