Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Questions (294)

Sean Conlan

Question:

294. Deputy Seán Conlan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if private citizens are entitled to know whether their personal data is being accessed without their consent by An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, or the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission; the avenues open to private citizens to determine who has authorised the accessing of their data, the grounds on which access was given and the avenues of redress open to them if they believe the access was granted without sufficient reason; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3259/16]

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Written answers (Question to Justice)

I assume the Deputy is referring to the powers to access retained communications data governed by the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011. The data available under this Act is subscriber and traffic and location data - not the content of communications - and it may only be accessed by the relevant bodies empowered to do so, for the purposes prescribed and under the terms set out in the Act, and in accordance with the respective statutory duties of the bodies involved.

The 2011 Act provides for the independent review of the operation of its provisions in respect or requests for access to data by a Designated Judge of the High Court. The Designated Judge is entirely independent in carrying out his functions. The Designated Judge has, by law, access to any and all persons and records he deems relevant and reports his findings at least annually to the Taoiseach where this matter is concerned.

The 2011 Act also provides for an independent complaints mechanism whereby any person who believes that data relating to them and that are in the possession of a service provider have been accessed following a disclosure request under the Act may apply to the Complaints Referee for an investigation into the matter. The Complaints Referee has, by law, access to any and all persons and records he deems relevant. If the Complaints Referee finds that the powers in the Act have been contravened he must, inter alia, report this directly to the Taoiseach.

It is important to note that the primary function of this legislation is in relation to the investigation of serious crime, the protection of the security of the State and the saving of human life. Given that the majority of applications under the Act will relate to the investigation of serious criminal activity, it is not the practice to inform those whose records have been accessed as to that fact.