New Dublin HQ selected for Data Protection Commissioner

9 Dec 2015

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon

No 21 Fitzwilliam Square is to be the new headquarters of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Irish Government confirmed today.

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon is overseeing a near doubling of the office’s budget from €1.8m to €3.6m, an increase in headcount from 29 to 50 and the opening of the new office in Dublin.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said that the new building sends out a strong signal that data protection is a key priority for Ireland.

“The new location will combine the old with the new, involving the restoration of a beautiful building under the care of the State for a new purpose: to house new staff for Ireland’s data protection authority, which regulates some of the world’s leading companies with respect to the EU’s data protection rules,” the Taoiseach said.

The new building, which is already in state ownership, will provide accommodation for up to 40 new staff, and is in addition to the ODPC’s existing premises in Portarlington, Co Laois, where 30 staff are based.

Beefed-up resources for Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner


The new offices for the Data Protection Commission of Ireland on 21 Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin

Works to restore and fit-out the building will take place over the coming months, led by the Office of Public Works (OPW), and are expected to the completed by next summer.

“Already, over the last six months, 16 new staff, including lawyers, technologists, investigators and a communications specialist have joined the Dublin-based DPC team with a further round of recruitment now again underway and we are greatly looking forward to settling into a new permanent location during 2016,” Dixon said.

The beefing up of resources for the Data Protection Commission and the move to more central premises reflect the increasing pressure the office is under to match international scrutiny due to the large presence of data-intensive internet and technology giants in Ireland, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple.

For example, because of the presence of Facebook’s international premises in Dublin, privacy campaigner Max Schrems brought his complaint about the transatlantic, unprotected transfer of his personal data from Europe to the US to the Data Protection Commission here.

What ensued was a series of court cases that wound up in the highest court in the EU, which eventually ruled that Safe Harbour, the system for sharing data across the Atlantic, was invalid.

But ultimately for the Data Protection Commission, the entire episode highlighted just how understaffed and underresourced it had been prior to Dixon’s appointment in September 2014.

“The securing of this new Dublin premises follows on from the significant increase in resources allocated to the office of the Data Protection Commissioner in the last two budgets,” the Minister for Data Protection, Dara Murphy, TD, said.

“This has allowed the Commissioner to recruit additional staff and plan ahead for the further scaling-up of the office, in anticipation of the new EU General Data Protection Regulation.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years