The regulation of data protection is rapidly changing with Ireland’s new Data Protection Commissioner as its driving force. In her first public appearance, the new Commissioner, Ms Helen Dixon,  announced that increased enforcement and a stricter approach will be the mainstay of data protection regulation in 2015.

With resources and funding for the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (“ODPC”) more than doubled in Budget 2015, the Commissioner has the means to steer the regulation of data protection legislation in a fresh direction. Some noteworthy areas the Commissioner aims to address in 2015 are the following:

  • Double Funding: the Commissioner has secured €3.65m in funding for 2015. This is almost double the funding received by ODPC in 2014. The Commissioner plans to use this budget to increase the resources at the ODPC (see here).
  • Increased involvement in European affairs: as a member of the Article 29 Working Party, the Commissioner aims to increase Ireland’s level of participation in shaping European data protection policy and affairs.
  • New offices and recruitment drive: the ODPC will move some of its operations to a new location in Dublin as well as maintaining its existing offices in Portarlington. It is actively seeking to recruit 18 staff for its new Dublin office. The long-term goal is to also employ an additional 45 staff. The Commissioner has been seeking guidance from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office which currently employs over 400 staff on the types of employment positions to be sourced.
  • Public sector organisations: the Commissioner noted that the ODPC will remain willing to engage with the public sector, however, it will in the future expect organisations to have carried out a comprehensive assessment of data protection related issues at the earliest possible point in any project before seeking guidance from the ODPC.
  • Prioritisation of complaints: the Commissioner expressed her plans to streamline the internal complaint investigation procedure with the aim of optimising the role of the ODPC in investigating complaints.

The Commissioner’s first public appearance has been very positively received and it is clear that the landscape of data protection is changing. This serves as a reminder to all organisations to continually assess their approach to data protection to ensure they are compliant with data protection legislation.