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The Data Protection Commissioner is very worried about the new postcode system. Here's why...

The office says that “in the Irish context, a person’s home address is an important part of their identity.

Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated 22.45

THE DATA PROTECTION COMMISSIONER (ODPC) is warning that sensitive information about individuals is being made more accessible by the upcoming introduction of Ireland’s new postcode system.

The office says they have previously voiced concerns that individual postcodes for each dwelling could be used for “any purpose” including  ”State services to commercial exploitation”.

In it’s annual report published today, the ODPC said:

This serious concern has since turned into a reality with the Minister’s announcement on the 8th of October 2013 that Cabinet had agreed to the rollout of the unique seven digit character code to every letter box in the State by 2015.

The ODPC argues that a public database linking a code to a single unit residential address “could be considered as being personal data of the occupants of that dwelling”.

“In the Irish context, a person’s home address is an important part of their identity and is the second most important piece of personal information to verify a person’s identity,” the report adds.

Furthermore, Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes says that, through the use of modern technology, a public postcode database can be “easily assimilated into any sort of electronic device” and “have the potential for the ready identification of sensitive information about individuals”.

The office say that they have made inquiries with the Department of Communications about how the system will operation in compliance with the Data Protection Acts and is waiting for clarification.

State protection 

Overall, the ODPC is highly critical about the State’s protection of personal information, saying that audits have shown that senior management have “in too many cases, shown scant regard to their duty to safeguard the personal data entrusted to them”.

Hawkes threatens that a failure to deal adequately with these problems will “also inevitably lead to more formal action by my Office.”

One of the issues the office specifically points to are related to customer service and the problems people face when attempting to gain access to their personal data. They say that this often leads to individuals having to request a copy of all their personal data.

Problems accessing personal data accounted for 57 per cent of the 910 complaints made to the office last year.

There were 204 complaints relating to unsolicited marketing communications and the office dealt with 1,577 data security breach notifications in 2013.

Read the Annual Report of teh Data Protection Commissioner here >

Read: Here’s what Ireland’s new system of postcodes will look like >

Read: Government to open up new postcode database to businesses – at a cost >

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Rónán Duffy

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