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Paving the path for expansion: Government approves plans for the growth of the Data Protection Commission

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By Charlotte Burke


Published 13 December 2022


The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, recently announced that the leadership structure of Ireland’s data regulator, the Data Protection Commission (“DPC”), is set to expand. The current organisational structure of the DPC places Helen Dixon as the sole Commissioner for Data Protection, supported by seven Deputy Commissioners, heading up areas such as Regulatory Activity, Corporate Affairs, and Technology & Operational Performance.

The announcement by the government details plans to appoint two additional Commissioners ‘to support the evolving organisational structure, governance and business needs of the Data Protection Commission (DPC)’. Section 15 of the Data Protection Act 2018 governs the membership of the DPC, and provides scope for the Minister to appoint additional Commissioners. Helen Dixon has been proposed for appointment as Chairperson of the new, expanded DPC ‘in light of her considerable experience and expertise’.

The Government’s decision to initiate the expansion of the DPC is expected to consequently place an onus on the DPC to undertake a review of its governance structures, staffing arrangements and processes and will pave the way for a new model of DPC which is more effective and efficient.

Minister McEntee’s much-welcomed announcement comes after an extremely busy period for the DPC which has placed a significant burden on its capacity to deliver on its role. As observers will be aware, the DPC has a huge range of “big tech” companies within its remit, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. Most recently, the DPC released its 2021 Annual Report in which it outlined that there was an increase of 7% on the previous year of complaints made to its office. In addition the DPC has handed down a number of well-publicised fines over the past year, most recently, a €405m levy on Facebook’s parent company, Meta, relating to GDPR violations in relation to children’s data. This fine was a result of a lengthy two year inquiry, requiring significant financial and personnel resources on the part of the DPC.

The Public Appointments Service will now commence the process of appointing two new DPC Commissioners, which is expected to take approximately 6 months. Click here for a full copy of the Minister’s announcement.