Irish insurance industry gets personal data from Police
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The Irish Data Protection Commissioner has indicated that there is a
widespread problem with government officials selling or leaking personal
information to the insurance industry.
Recent media reports have indicated that members of the Irish police force
have been providing access to the police computer system to insurance
companies investigating car accidents. An inquiry arising from those
concerns has discovered that there is also a wider problem in the insurance
industry involving access to private social welfare records of individuals.
The Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes is quoted as saying that the
practice of obtaining such information has been and continues to be
“systematic” across the industry.
Billy Hawkes announced in April 2007 that the Data Protection Commissioner
started an investigation in this field, after the Sunday Tribune reports.
“I am aware that some insurance companies use private investigators to
investigate claims which they suspect are fraudulent or exaggerated. Private
investigators in their activities are bound by the Data Protection Acts. I
intend to work closely with the Private Security Authority on the licensing
requirements that will shortly apply to this sector.”
But this case is seen as part of a wider problem in Ireland of staff in
public bodies leaking or selling private information. One of the main causes
could be that the government has adopted a policy of matching up various
databases using the individual’s PPS number as a unique identifier. This
applies to areas as disparate as schools, healthcare, taxation and local
authorities and creates new risks of abuse by allowing public officials
to easily access information from other public databases, and potentially
allowing an individual to be tracked “from cradle to grave”.
Welfare records leaked to insurers – Sunday Times (15.07.2007) – Excerpt
Tribune insurance allegations prompt two probes (15.04.2007)
Press Release regarding allegations of disclosure of confidential
information to Insurance Companies (16.04.2007)
PPS Numbers and “Cradle to Grave” Tracking ( 20.04.2007)
(Contribution by TJ McIntyre, EDRI-member Digital Rights Ireland)