Ireland’s DPC is expanding with two extra commissioners

27 Jul 2022

Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon. Image: Connor McKenna

Current Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon will move to the role of chair as part of the data watchdog’s restructure.

The Irish Government is set to appoint two additional commissioners to support the needs of the Data Protection Commission (DPC).

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, TD, said the expansion will help the organisation deal with “an increased workload with increasingly complex investigative requirements”.

The decision follows an examination instigated in 2021 by the then Minister for Justice Heather Humphreys, TD. The appointment process is expected to take six months.

McEntee said the decision “sends a strong statement” of the Government’s intention to continue to build the capacity of the national authority.

As part of the watchdog’s restructuring, current Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon will move to the role of DPC chair.

“The Data Protection Commission has developed and grown significantly under the leadership of the current commissioner since its establishment,” said McEntee.

“In light of her considerable experience and expertise, Government has agreed to my proposal to appoint Helen Dixon to the position of chairperson of the Data Protection Commission pursuant to section 16 of the Data Protection Act.”

As well as being the national data watchdog, the Irish DPC also acts as the EU’s lead data supervisor under GDPR for several major tech players that have European headquarters in Ireland. This includes Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter.

However, the watchdog has come under fire in recent years, with accusations of having “torturous” procedures and becoming a “bottleneck of GDPR investigation and enforcement”.

Some EU officials have warned that the bloc’s privacy rules may need to change if enforcement is not effective.

Earlier this year, Dixon defended the DPC’s track record in enforcing GDPR in its annual report.

She said certain allegations levelled against the watchdog “serve only to obscure the true nature and extent of the challenges presented by the particular framework by which the EU member states are bound to legislate for the enforcement of data protection within the EU as a whole”.

She acknowledged that “higher standards of responsiveness” were still needed in many sectors. “The DPC will continue to target enforcement actions aimed at driving those necessary improvements.”

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic