DPC investigated record number of data complaints in 2011

30 Apr 2012

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC)’s office opened 1,161 complaints for investigation in 2011, a record number compared to its last milestone of 783 in 2010, according to the Data Protection Commissioner’s annual report for 2011. Vodafone, UPC, Eircom and O2 were among the telecoms companies prosecuted by the DPC for marketing of offenses.

The Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes said his office saw a shift in the nature and type of complaints received. Individuals were concerned about the security of their personal data and how this data was used by software and applications.

During 2011, 1,161 complaints were filed. Hawkes said the increased demand on the resources of this office was a result of the number of global tech firms located in Ireland and the potential for reputational damage for the country if this office could not perform its duties due to resource issues.

Nearly half (562) of the complaints concerned data access rights, which Hawkes said reflected the growing level of awareness the public has around the right of access to a copy of their personal data.

In 2011, the number of data breach notifications outstripped the number of complaints opened for investigations for the first time. Some 1,167 data breaches were reported to the Data Protection Commissioner, up from 410 in 2010. However, the commissioner believes this is not due to an actual increase of breaches and is more likely a result of a raised awareness of the need to notify his office.

Twenty-eight audits were undertaken in 2011, including the Facebook Ireland audit, which was the most extensive and resource-intensive yet taken by the Data Protection Commissioner’s office, according to Hawkes.

The office also handled 100 complaints and queries from people who received unwanted contact from candidates and political parties during 2011’s general election.