DPC Issues Annual Report

The  DPC’s first annual report since the GDPR has just been released. It is  not surprising to observers of developments in the data protection field that at the outset the report remarks , “it is the rise in the number of complaints and queries to data protection authorities across the EU since 25 May 2018 that demonstrates a new level of mobilisation to action on the part of individuals to tackle what they see as misuse or failure to adequately explain what is being done with their data”.(DPC Report, 2018) It is fair to say that pre-GDPR there was very much hype and alarm and this amplified the closer it came to D-Day, May 25th, 2018. Things have changed somewhat since then and if, “ we understand something about the GDPR, it is this: it will be a process of dialogue that lasts many years and the dialogue will need to shift and change with technology, context, learning from evidence (including emerging case law) and evolving societal norms.”(DPC Report, 2018)

We spoke in an earlier blog, and we allude to it on this website, about some misinformation and disinformation that unfortunately increased the sense of alarm and panic pre-GDPR. After May 25th there was more.  It seems the hairdresser who cited GDPR as the reason she could not give her customer details of the hair dye she was using in her customer’s hair is the favourite GDPR myth within the office of the DPC. By the way, the hairdresser’s customer was leaving to go to another hairdresser and wanted to be able to tell the new hairdresser what colour went in her hair, but we can be sure that this had nothing to do with the hairdresser’s response!

Some Facts  From the Report.

  • 2,864 complaints, of these the largest single category was in the category ‘Access Rights’ with 977 complaints, or a little over 34%of the total.
  •  1,928 were complaints under GDPR and of these 868 had been concluded.
  •  total of 3,452 data breaches recorded with the largest single category being ‘Unauthorised Disclosures’ and 38 breaches related to 11 multi-national technology companies.
  •  almost 31,000 contacts were made to the Information and     Assessment unit within the DPC.
  • 15 statutory inquiries (investigations) were opened in relation to the compliance of multinational companies with GDPR.
  • 16 requests  –formal and voluntary- for mutual assistance from other EU data protection authorities.
  • 31 own volition inquiries under the Data Protection Act 2018 into the surveillance of citizens by the state sector, for law enforcement purposes, through the use of technologies such as CCTV, body-worn cameras, automatic number plate recognition, drones and other technologies. These inquiries are conducted by the Special Investigation Unit. This same unit continued its work in relation to the special investigation into the Public Services Card that we have featured on our website recently.
  • 950 general consultations were received, excluding the consultations with multinational technology companies.
  •  900 data protection officer notifications.

In late 2018, the DPC established an advanced technology evaluation and assessment unit (the Technology Leadership Unit – TLU) with the objective of supporting and maximising the effectiveness of the DPC’s supervision and enforcement teams in assessing risks relating to the dynamics of complex systems and technology.

So it has been a busy and productive time for the office of the DPC and they even got time to speak at over 110 events including conferences, seminars and presentations. Late last year the DPC commenced a significant project to develop a new five-year DPC regulatory strategy that will include extensive external consultation during 2019.   It has to be remembered that The DPC received complaints under two substantive parallel legal frameworks during this period:

  • complaints and potential infringements that related to, or occurred,                 before 25 May 2018, must be handled by the DPC under the framework    of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003;
  • and in addition and separately, complaints received by the DPC relating to the period from 25 May 2018 must be dealt with by the DPC under the new EU legal framework of the GDPR and Law Enforcement Directive and the provisions of the Data Protection Act 2018, which give further effect to, or transpose those laws into the laws of Ireland as a Member State of the EU.

The DPC took an active part in the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) 6th annual privacy sweep. Data protection authorities from around the world participated and the theme in 2018 was privacy accountability. Accountability is a central element of GDPR. It is a concept that, “requires organisations to take necessary steps to implement applicable data protection rules and regulations, and to be able to demonstrate how these have been incorporated into their own internal privacy programs” (DPC Report 2018).  In the last sweep GPEN aimed to assess how well organisations have implemented accountability into their own internal privacy programmes and policies. One goal was to establish a sort of baseline of an organisation’s compliance with data protection. This was the brief for the DPC, as their input was targeted at randomly selected organisations in Ireland. 30 organisations across a range of sectors completed a suite of pre-set questions relating to privacy accountability. Because the sweep was done in the last quarter of 2018 only preliminary or provisional results are available to date of report. Preliminary results include the following:

  • 86% of organisations have a contact listed for a DPO on their website
  • 75% appear to have adequate data breach policies in place
  • All organisations seem to have some kind of data protection training for staff However, only 38% could provide evidence of training for all staff including new entrants and refresher training
  • In most cases organisations appear to undertake data protection monitoring/self- assessment but not to a sufficiently high level. In this category, 3 out of 29 scored ‘poor’ , while 13 could only reach a ‘satisfactory’ level
  • 1/3 of organisations were unable to show any documented processes in place to assess risks associated with new technology and products
  • 30% of organisations failed to show they had an adequate inventory of personal data, while close to  50% failed to keep a record of data flows

These again are preliminary, and the full results will be more instructive. It is to be emphasised that 30 organisations represent a small sample size.  Nevertheless, there seems to be large deficiencies in staff training and data protection monitoring/ self- assessment. Many issues will be more fully addressed in the coming months when the results of the ‘sweep’ will be available.