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Fáilte ó Bhaile Átha Cliath, greetings from Dublin!

This week has been a busy one, with privacy pros preparing for next week’s international Data Protection Day. Here in Dublin, we are looking forward to welcoming IAPP CEO J. Trevor Hughes to celebrate the most important day in the international privacy and data protection calendar. We are hoping Trevor will experience a true Irish “céad míle fáilte” (a hundred thousand welcomes). We have a packed schedule for next week, with meetings, lunches, dinners and podcasts planned.

Irish politicians are also busy at the moment as we have an upcoming election 8 Feb. Speaking at Government Buildings, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that now is the best time to hold an election with a deal in place on Brexit and the restoration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland. However, a poll conducted by the Irish Times this week showed 63% of those polled favored a change in government, with the vast majority of people expressing dissatisfaction with the current government’s actions on health and housing.

Internationally, Varadkar is often cited as a liberal choice for leader in a country that has historically been viewed as conservative. However, at home, he is considered quite conservative in a country that has progressively become more liberal. This may be a problem for his government in the upcoming election, where there are record numbers of homeless people on the streets, a health system in crisis and drastic action needed to manage a climate catastrophe.

From a data protection perspective, the controversy over the attempted introduction of a Public Services Card was embarrassing for the government. As previously reported, the Data Protection Commission criticized the government’s approach to the introduction of the card, the retention period for background data and the lack of a lawful basis for its use by some agencies. However, rather than accept the DPC’s findings, the government ignored them, requiring the DPC to bring enforcement proceedings against the minister responsible. The case is ongoing.

The outcome of the election will be important for Europe more widely. A change in leadership in Ireland, at a time of critical trade negotiations with the U.K., may be problematic. The government is generally considered to have managed Brexit negotiations well. However, if the polls are to be believed, that is unlikely to be enough to bring the same team back to power without a coalition.

In the meantime, the DPC has issued "Canvassing and Elections Guidance" for individuals and politicians. The guidance reminds political parties to comply with their obligations under data protection law. In particular, if they plan to engage in online political advertising or use third-party services for electoral activities, they must ensure they have a legal basis for sharing any personal data with that third-party service or advertising platform. Individuals must also be informed of any third parties with whom their personal data will be shared. Given the fallout from Cambridge Analytica’s activities in the lead up to the U.K. referendum on Brexit, this advice is timely and important.

So, it’s a busy time for Irish privacy pros and politicians alike. Best of luck to those running for election, and happy international Data Protection Day to all privacy pros!

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