160% Rise in Request for Personal Online Data in Ireland

Grainne McMahon, Content Editor (Ireland)

November 25, 2021

There has been a 160 per cent jump in the request to corporations for people's online data in Ireland, according to a new report.

The majority of the requests are believed to come from law enforcement in other EU states, but these requests must be processed here in Ireland because the European headquarters of the tech giants are based here.

The report by EU policing agency Europol says that figures from eight of the biggests OSPs showed a 27 per cent increase in requests for user data from 2019 to 2020, that is from 128,265 to 162,986, with Facebook and Google being the biggest companies concerned. 'It is worth noting that some member states observed a sharp increase. Ireland for example had a 157% increase in the volume of requests submitted.' There were 55 emergency disclosure requests in Ireland. The report highlights that seven of the eight companies are based in Ireland and the increase could be directly due to requests from other EU countries.

The pandemic has led to increased criminal activity in certain areas including cybercrime, distribution of counterfeit goods, frauds and scams in addition to what the report says is a 'concerning spike' in child sexual abuse cases. It cites comments from law enforcement on the benefits of accessing data from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google, WhatsApp, Telegram and Twitter when investigating serious crimes, including identifying paedophiles and rapists. The lack of a unified data retention regime is posing challenges to cross-border investigations, according to the report.

In the report, Irish authorities say the Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011 has been challenged in the courts. 'We no longer use this act to obtain evidence from OSPs [online service providers],' according to the Irish statement in the report. It refers to a 'high profile murder case, Graham Dwyer v DPP & Ireland' before the Supreme Court which referred the legal matter to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU). It should be noted that the Europol report was written before the opinion of the CJEU's legal adviser was published which ruled that 'general and indiscriminate' retention of traffic data was not permissible for cases of serious crime and only for serious threats to national security.