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Consultation on registration requirements under the Data Protection Acts

On Friday, 16 January 2004, the Department of Justice launched their consultation on the range of organisations that should be compelled to register with the Data Protection Commissioner under the Data Protection Acts 1988-2003 (the 'DPA'). Their consultation paper was made available on Monday at 5pm.

Under current law, a relatively narrow class of organisation is required to register under the DPA. These include financial institutions, government bodies, those involved in direct marketing, and those who process sensitive data. New registration requirements were introduced in 2003, which meant that all companies/organisations that are data processors or data controllers under the DPA are required to register unless they are exempt. However, the implementation of this provision has been delayed to allow for a period of consultation.

Under the new regime the exempt categories are as follows:

  • categories of data controller or data processor as specified by the Minister for Justice;
  • data controllers and processors whose sole purpose is the keeping of a register that is intended to provide information to the public;
  • data controllers and processors that carry out the processing of manual data;
  • where the data controller is a non-profit-making body and the processing of personal data is for the purposes of establishing or maintaining membership of, or support for, the body.

As can be seen above, the new regime is entirely different from that which is currently in place. A wide range of companies and organisations will be required to register unless they can fall into the new exempt categories. It is these exempt categories that the Department of Justice wishes to explore, and has requested interested parties to submit their views as to the full extent of the exemptions.

The following are some of the points that the Department has asked interested parties to consider:

  • whether an exemption should apply for processing which is unlikely to affect adversely the rights and freedoms of data subjects;
  • to what extent the size of an entity should be taken into account;
  • whether there should be an exemption for those who merely process for employment purposes;
  • should special rules apply in respect of certain data controllers bound by codes of professional ethics which prohibit the disclosure of personal data;
  • whether registration is required where a data controller has appointed personal data protection official for ensuring the internal application of a data protection law in an independent manner.

These are some of the areas in which the Department of Justice is seeking the views of interested parties. The deadline for submissions is the 5 March 2004. If you would like more information, a copy of the consultation document, or are interested in making a submission on this important topic, please contact Colm Kelly, by e-mail or at +353 (0)1 662 6655.

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