Ahern publishes draft data protection regulations

30 Jul 2003

Communications Minister Dermot Ahern TD has initiated a public consultation on draft regulations to enhance the privacy protection afforded to internet and email users, as previously reported in siliconrepublic.com.

Among the main provisions of the draft regulations are the right of subscribers to determine which of their personal data can be included in a publicly available directory of subscribers.

As well as specific provisions to deal with cookies and other devices for monitoring net usage, the new rules include restrictions on unsolicited direct marketing by email, SMS, fax and automated calling systems.

The move will be welcomed by those whose systems are being overrun by spam mail. However, it will be something of a burden to direct marketing companies and possibly internet service providers (ISP) as they will be obliged to adapt their websites and databases to be in line with the new legislation.

The draft regulations set out powers for the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the Data Protection Commissioner to promote and enforce appropriate standards to protect subscribers and their personal data when using the internet and new services available over mobile networks.

Included in these new powers are the powers of investigation by ComReg and the Data Protection Commissioner into suspected breaches of the new regulations.

Minister Ahern said: “Modern technologies such as the Internet and mobile communications are powerful tools and of great economic and social benefit. At the same time, the public are entitled to protection from any misuse of information gained from the use of these technologies.

“Problems with Internet usage such as spamming and unsolicited marketing may now be restricted under these Regulations which will be an important step in ensuring the protection of privacy in the use of electronic communications networks and services,” the minister said.

The regulations also provide for the requirement of companies to inform subscribers of the respective purposes of publicly available directories and get their consent to be included in the directory as long as full information is given about the ways in which their personal data is to be used or accessed.

In addition, the new rules look at traffic and location-specific information about users, aimed mostly at mobile marketers providing value-added services on mobile networks.

The new regulations also make provision for the possibility of subscribers and users having access to a simple means to temporarily deny processing of location-specific data.

The new regulations will transpose into Irish law the EU Directive 2002/58/EC concerning the processing of personal data and protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector. This directive must be transposed into national law across Europe by 31 October.

In conclusion, the minister said: “I would urge all interested parties, whether they are business or private users, to involve themselves in the public consultation process. The use of these such modern technologies are now an everyday way of life for people and as such it is important that all views are heard and considered.”

For more information on the public consultation, go to www.dcmnr.gov.ie/display.asp?pg=1110.

By John Kennedy