Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner has issued the first fine under the GDPR

Written by Stuart Anderson in Latest News 18th May 2020

The dust has started to settle following the news over the weekend that the Data Protection Commissioner has issued the first GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) fine to an organisation.

The child and family agency, Tusla, has been fined €75,000 following an investigation into three cases where the personal information of children was wrongly disclosed to third-parties.

Tusla notified the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner of the three breach notifications between February and May 2019.

In one breach, Tusla accidentally disclosed the contact and location data of a mother and child victim to an alleged abuser. In the next breach, Tusla accidentally disclosed contact, location and school details of foster parents and children to a grandparent. As a result, that grandparent made contact with the foster parent about the children. In the third breach, Tusla accidentally disclosed the address of children in foster care to their imprisoned father, who used it to correspond with his children.

There has been much commentary following the announcement and some commentators have remarked that the fine is low or indeed ‘miniscule’. Whilst the fine is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the €50,000,000 fine handed to Google by the French data protection authority (CNIL), it is vital to understand that the fine was set at the maximum jurisdiction of the Circuit Court for appeals against fines (section 142(6)(a)). Works out at 7.5% of the maximum (capped) fine allowable for a state body (1 million).

The key takeaway from this landmark fine is that organisations must implement appropriate safeguards to protect the personal data that they process. Article 32 of the GDPR states that:

1. Taking into account the state of the art, the costs of implementation and the nature, scope, context and purposes of processing as well as the risk of varying likelihood and severity for the rights and freedoms of natural persons, the controller and the processor shall implement appropriate technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security appropriate to the risk, including inter alia as appropriate:

  • (a) the pseudonymisation and encryption of personal data;
  • (b) the ability to ensure the ongoing confidentiality, integrity, availability and resilience of processing systems and services;
  • (c) the ability to restore the availability and access to personal data in a timely manner in the event of a physical or technical incident;
  • (d) process for regularly testing, assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures for ensuring the security of the processing.

Our advice is that organisations review their processing operations, with particular regard to point c above.