New bill brings greater liabilities

1 Nov 2002

The imminent Data Protection Bill 2002 will give consumers greater data protection rights and expose the State to greater liabilities, according to Dennis Kelleher, barrister of law and author of a new report on legal frameworks for information communications technology and e-business.

Commissioned by Forfás, the new report sets out an extensive wish list of reasoned recommendations to help Ireland bolster its ambitions to succeed as an e-business hub, including action plans for the setting up of ‘e-courts’ for specialist cases involving copyright and intellectual property.

It also carries a warning that implementation of the much delayed 1995 Data Protection Directive should be implemented ‘in the most pro business way possible’ because of ‘potential costs’ and ‘compliance burden’.

Speaking from the consumer’s point of view, Kelleher asserts that people should be more aware of privacy issues, especially with the rise of e-business and e-government.

“The big issue going forward is that people have a right for privacy and need to protect it as much as possible. The key issue is not what companies are doing, it’s what individual citizens have not been doing in standing up for themselves in relation to privacy,” he says. “They should become far more conscious of their rights because they are definitely under threat.”

Consumers have the right to sue when the existing legislation is breached, but these rights will be dramatically extended with the new bill.

“The danger for the State is that if it doesn’t take due regard to the legislation, it may find itself exposed to very large liabilities indeed,” warns Kelleher.

By Ian Campbell