29 Mar 2018

Ireland has failed to regulate Facebook on behalf of Europe

The Cambridge Analytica scandal exposed how Facebook provided data from millions of users to third parties without consent. How did the Irish Data Protection Commissioner allow this to happen on its watch? 

Ciara Kenny
Ciara Kenny The Irish Times, Ireland
Source: The Irish Times
Ireland has failed to regulate Facebook on behalf of Europe - NewsMavens
Keyboard. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

As Facebook’s EMEA headquarters are located in Dublin, the spotlight has since fallen on the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, who is responsible for ensuring the company complies with EU law.

As Derek Scally explains in his article, the Data Protection Commissioner’s “consensual regulation” approach to policing social media companies under its watch has “failed spectacularly”.

“From a European perspective, the Cambridge Analytica scandal is not a series of unfortunate events but a new low point in a long narrative of deliberate neglect in Ireland,” he writes.

Facebook is just one of a number of social media giants who have their EMEA headquarters in Dublin. Google, Twitter and LinkedIn are also based in “Silicon Docks”, the city’s Docklands area, alongside e-commerce companies Amazon, Etsy, Groupon, PayPal, Airbnb and Uber.

These companies are in possession of the private data of tens of millions of users. Ireland benefits in many ways from the location of their headquarters here, not least through the corporation tax they pay into our State coffers.

A significant chunk of this must go towards ensuring the office of the Data Protection Commissioner is adequately resourced to carry out scrupulous regulation of their business practices so that data remains as it should be -- private.

media, scandal

Details from the story:

  • Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that worked on Donald Trump’s election campaign and the Brexit referendum, has been accused of harvesting personal data from millions of Facebook users and using it to inform its campaigns.
  • For the past seven years, the office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has been “engaging” with Facebook through meetings and audits, after a complaint made by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems over Facebook’s data gathering by third parties was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Justice. It took Facebook two years to comply with the decision.
  • Questions are now being asked of the Data Protection Commissioner over why Facebook was allowed to take so long.
  • If the DPC fails to regulate, new EU data protection rules will allow organizations around Europe to oversee the work of the DPC in Dublin, and the office itself will be disciplined accordingly.

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