The Government has approved an expansion of the Data Protection Commission (DPC) that will see the appointment of two additional commissioners.
Helen Dixon, the current sole commissioner, will become chairperson of the DPC under the new structure.
The move follows several calls for more resources at the DPC from privacy campaigners, civil liberties groups and Ms Dixon.
The DPC said in 2021 that its current structure was “unsustainable and unfit for purpose”, while Ms Dixon urged the Government to allow the organisation to recruit more senior managers to help it regulate the European Union operations of Irish-based technology giants.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the commission had “performed its role of independent data protection regulation in the State very effectively to date”, but had been dealing with “an increased workload with increasingly complex investigative requirements” in recent years.
“Today’s Government 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 the commission can continue to deliver on its role,” the Minister said.
Ms McEntee is also asking the DPC to undertake a review of governance structures, staffing arrangements and other processes.
Funding for the DPC has increased more than six-fold from its 2015 allocation of €3.647 million to a €23.2 million budget allocation in 2022. The Department of Justice said this has been in line with its increased functions and responsibilities.
Staffing numbers have also increased from 110 in 2018 to 191 at the end of 2021, while there is a budget provision for total staff numbers of 258 by the end of 2022.
Notwithstanding this swelling of the DPC’s headcount, the State’s record of handling privacy complaints made against Big Tech companies has been the subject of some international criticism following the introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018.
The process to appoint the two new commissioners will be conducted through the Public Appointments Service and is expected to take six months.
Their addition to the DPC was recommended by an Oireachtas justice committee report on GDPR prepared by the Oireachtas justice published in July 2021.