Privacy threat to new citizens
2015-09-01 15:37:45 -
Human Rights
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Govt defends posting personal details online despite risks

By Chinedu Onyejelem
 
 
The decision by the Government to publish the names and addresses of new Irish citizens online could cause untold damage to their lives, a solicitor has warned.
The controversy comes after it emerged that the personal details of naturalised citizens have been published freely online for the last 10 years.
 
According to the Department of Justice, Section 18(2) of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 1956 “requires that a notice of the issue of a certificate [of naturalisation] shall be published” in An Iris Oifigiúil, the official Irish State gazette.
 
Such notices, as stipulated by Section 7 of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Regulations 2011 (SI 569 of 2011), must include the individual’s name, address, the date of issue of the certificate “and whether the person was of full age or a minor,” Justice told Metro Éireann, adding that the award of a naturalisation certificate is considered a public act and therefore “disclosure is in the public interest.”
 
The department added: “We are after all granting something very valuable at the minister’s discretion and the exercise of that discretion should be transparent.”
However, a Dublin solicitor has pointed out that the required medium of publication under the law does not stipulate posting such details on the internet.
“Except if one is trying to play smart, the publication of State notices in the State’s official gazette envisaged by law makers in 1956, when the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act was enacted, does not include publication through internet,” said Waheed Mudah of Kevin Tunney Solicitors.
 
While not disputing the transparency of the process, changing times – especially with the serious crime of identity theft on the rise – demand “that caution is exercised … It is undeniable that the kind of damage that could be visited on the naturalised citizens whose details are now easily accessible is limitless.”
 
Meanwhile, Okey Chukwuezi of Ad’Reme Solicitors said that names and addresses “constitute sensitive personal data and therefore require the full protection of Irish data protection legislation” despite the Data Protection Commissioner “trying to justify the publication as falling under the exceptions to the Data Protection Act.”
 
He added that the publishing of these details online “appears to be inconsistent with EU directive on the subject, and in the context of the recent European Union Court of Justice decision in the Digital Rights Ireland case, the EU law should prevail over domestic Irish law.”
 
The dangers of such details being freely available on the internet are real, said Chukwuezi, especially in the case of people who left their home countries as refugees or victims of abuse.
Moreover, the Government “is in fact saying that these people are second-class Irish citizens who should not enjoy the same rights of privacy as native white Irish citizens.”
TAGS : naturalisation Department of Justice Data Protection Act new Irish citizens
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