In July 2022, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD announced an expansion of the Data Protection Commission, which will see the commission take on two additional commissioners, with the current commissioner, Helen Dickson, to become the chair.
The Department of Justice has confirmed that the appointments will be made in accordance with Section 15 of the Data Protection Act 2018, which provides for up to three commissioners to be appointed. The process of appointing the two additional commissioners will take up to six months to complete. The terms and conditions of the new commissioners pend the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD.
The Data Protection Commission was established in 2018, and has seen its budget grow from an initial €3.6 million to €23.2 million in its four years of operation.
The expansion of the commission follows an examination instigated in 2021 by former Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys TD, to consider whether an increase in the membership of the commission should be pursued.
In line with the Government’s commitment to ensure that the DPC can best deliver on its responsibilities, the Department of Justice was requested to consider the matter of appointing additional commissioners, as provided for under the 2018 Act.
The consideration was initiated on the basis that the commission has evolved significantly since its inception. The increased working burden and investigative complexity has been regularly highlighted by the commission itself and its stakeholders.
This is due to a set of powers which have been conferred on the commission, due to both the Regulation and the EU Law Enforcement Directives, including investigative, corrective, authorisation, and advisory powers on the DPC and that the volume of complaints was also likely to increase.
The move is an effort to continue implementation of the Harnessing Digital strategy, first published in February 2022, which sets out the Government’s intention for the State to be “a digital leader at the heart of European and global digital developments”.
Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD says: “[The] Government’s decision sends a strong statement of its intention to continue to build the capacity of the Data Protection Commission, support the existing commissioner and ensure that the commission can continue to deliver on its role.