Irish DPA threatens government with court case

By EDRi · June 4, 2003

According to an article in the Irish Times of 26 May, the Irish Data
Protection Commissioner Mr Joe Meade has twice threatened to begin High
Court proceedings against the Government for using an “invalid” Ministerial
Direction to unconstitutionally store citizens’ phone, fax and mobile call
data for 3 years.

As reported in EDRI-gram nr. 3, in April 2002 the Minister for Public
Enterprise issued directions to telecommunication operators to keep
detailed, non-anonymous traffic data for a three-year period. When Meade
revealed this during a conference on data retention in February, he stated
that government was also preparing mandatory data-retention for internet

The situation was even worse when Meade first obliged providers and telco’s
to register their databases with the Office for Data Protection. In January
2001 the Commissioner found out that companies had been keeping these data
for 6 years. Following EU privacy-guidelines he pressed for a maximum
retention period of 6 months. The Irish government obviously wasn’t pleased
and issued the secret direction in response.

The Irish Times obtained correspondence of the Commissioner under the
Freedom of Information Act. In his letters, Meade said the Direction was
“in breach of Article 15.2.1 of the Constitution”, lacked “the character of
law”, and was “in breach of the principles of (European) Community law”. He
also threatened proceedings because he believed the Government had failed
to act with the haste it initially promised, to replace the secret
Direction with primary legislation.

‘Court threat for State over data privacy’ by Karlin Lillington (26.05.2003)