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Data Protection Commissioner ‘not surprised’ by US surveillance programme

Billy Hawkes said that his concern might be that there would be an abuse of powers that have been granted for legitimate reasons.

Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes.
Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

IRELAND’S DATA PROTECTION Commissioner has said he is not surprised to hear that the CIA has been accessing information from US companies that are based in Ireland.

His comments come after a government contractor in the US revealed details of a vast secret US programme to monitor internet users and access servers of internet giants like Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Billy Hawkes said that it does not come as much of a surprise that “in the rather murky world of intelligence, there is significant power to access information for intelligence purposes”.

Hawes said he was aware “in a general way” that intelligence services have extensive access to information and added that European law and gardaí also have significant rights of access.

However he said this is subject to safeguards and that the concern might be that there would be an abuse of power that has been given for legitimate reasons.

Hawkes said that this issue goes beyond data protection law which is designed to protect people in their “day-to-day activity”. He said that intelligence agencies are often blamed when terrorist attacks occur, for not being aware of the people involved, and that this is their justification for having access to information to find individuals involved in this kind of activity.

He added that the companies involved had all denied that they had voluntarily given out the information and that companies like this in Ireland have strict procedures about giving information to law enforcement.

Read: This is the man responsible for one of the biggest leaks in US history>

Read: George W. Obama? Here’s how the HuffPo is covering the US surveillance scandal

Read: Google, Facebook, Skype, YouTube also tapped by US government

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