Data Protection Bill 2018 [Seanad]: Fifth Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Everybody has worked really well on this and we have put in some major changes. We really appreciate the input from the Department in advance of this to enable us to work collectively on the legislation. However, we are very concerned about section 47. We really felt there was not enough time to discuss all of the amendments in the one group and we did not have time to tease matters out properly because our speaking slots were limited. It is on that basis that we are registering our opposition and concern. The digital age of consent being set at 16 is also something we very much regret.

I acknowledge the co-operation of the House in respect of this important and complex legislation, which arises following four years of negotiation. The legislation will take effect across Europe from next week, on 25 May. We did have good opportunity to discuss it in some detail, acknowledging the principal objectives of the legislation to give further effect in national law to the articles of the GDPR, to transpose the law enforcement directive into national law, the setting up of the data protection commission with up to three commissioners which will replace the Data Protection Commissioner, and of course to equip the data protection commission with the necessary powers and resources. I acknowledge the contributions of Members on all sides. I was pleased to have the opportunity of accepting some of the amendments and acknowledging the will and wishes of the majority of the House as far as others are concerned. The resources allocated to the data protection commission have been increased to €11.7 million for this year, up from €1.9 million in 2014. This is to prepare for the expanded role and the increased workload that will come with the implementation of the directive and the GDPR. The additional funding has facilitated the recruitment of additional staff, including legal and technical experts and experts of an investigative nature. Staff resources have trebled, from 30 in 2013 to almost 100 now. I am very pleased that we will be in a position to meet the accepted deadline. There are a number of amendments that will take us back to the Seanad next week.

I thank everybody involved. In particular, I thank my officials, Mr. Seamus Carroll and Ms Noreen Walsh, for their diligence over a lengthy period on Second Stage and Committee Stage of this House, and in the Seanad, where we had a great level of detail on the legislation.

It is an important occasion with this Bill now being passed by Dáil Éireann. I join the Minister in acknowledging the work done by Mr. Carroll and Ms Walsh in the Department. It was a significant task to put together this legislation, which was for the part purpose of bringing into effect the GDPR - the parts of it that we wanted to put into the legislation - and also for the purpose of transposing the other accompanying directives.

The process relating to the Bill has been fairly tortuous in terms of the work we have had to do on Second Stage, Committee Stage and Report Stage. That simply reflects the fact that it is going to have a very significant impact and consequences for people in Ireland. The whole premise of the Bill is well-intentioned. It is there to ensure that there is protection for the personal data of individuals. However, it is not the case that the legislation will place burdens only on large corporations and how they deal with the smaller person. In fact, it is also going to place significant obligations on the smaller person and business. I have no doubt there will be difficulties with the legislation after it comes into force and after the GDPR becomes effective on Friday of next week. Hopefully, it will not as torturous as the process relating to the legislation has been.

The progress of the Bill also reflects the fact that we can do nothing in this House once regulations are agreed. Once the regulation was signed up to on 27 April 2016, there was very little we could do. This regulation is coming into effect on Friday week and nothing that this House or, indeed, the Seanad do will affect the provisions of the GDPR. I hope it is a success. I commend all the individuals who contributed here today and on Committee Stage. Let us hope that the legislation will be effective in terms of achieving the primary purpose, which is the protection of individuals’ personal data.

Before I speak to the Bill, I wish to raise a point of clarification. Can I take it that the Dáil will not sit until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow or will it be the case that statements on Palestine and the debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill will start at 9 a.m.?

The Business Committee set the extra time.

The proposal was only to come into effect if this Bill was not completed tonight.

So the Dáil will start at 10.30 a.m. tomorrow. Is that correct?

I thought it would be useful to get that clarification.

I saw a tweet during the week from a parody account which stated "I would rather die than be GDPR compliant". We must reflect on the fact that there are many people in many organisations and businesses who are sick of GDPR and data protection. That is true of none more than the Minister’s own officials. I am sure they are pleased to be nearly shut of this business before it goes to the Seanad. It is detailed, technical and time-consuming legislation. In fairness, there was a desire to engage, although there were differences of opinion between the Government and the Opposition. However, there was a desire and openness to engage.

There are still shortfalls in the Bill. I have significant concerns about section 47, as identified by Deputies Wallace and Clare Daly, as well as several others. The Bill, however, has been improved significantly since Second Stage in the Seanad. The introduction of the necessary and proportionate measure is an important safeguard and standard test set by the courts. I welcome the significant step taken in requiring prescriptive approval by the Oireachtas of regulations relating to special categories of data. I also welcome the amendment made tonight, creating an offence for the micro-targeting of data of children for commercial purposes. These are significant steps. There are still shortcomings in the legislation. They may become more apparent over the years to come. The process, lengthy and tortuous as it was, has produced progress and improved the Bill.

I compliment the officials as well. It should be pointed out that there was much co-operation from the start from all sides. It is probably how legislation should be done. No one gets everything they want. As Deputy Clare Daly has pointed out, section 47 is a big disappointment for us. We also feel the digital age of consent changing from 13 to 16 will be seriously regretted sooner rather than later.

Question put and agreed to.

A message shall be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.