General News / July 20, 2023

An Unspecified “Serious Threat” Is Changing Irish Surveillance

Photo Credit: Todd Seelie
General News / July 20, 2023

An Unspecified “Serious Threat” Is Changing Irish Surveillance

Words: Dray Morgan

The Irish Government’s surveillance capabilities have changed after Justice Minister, Helen McEntee declared a “genuine and serious” threat to the state.

For the next year, The Irish Government will have extensive surveillance permissions on the public due to an unspecified “threat” to the country’s safety.

On 27 June, The Government obtained a High Court order, requiring telecommunications service providers to retain specific data, which includes user search traffic, location data and website source data. This means that the government will freely be able to record where the public is and what they are searching online, with no individualised reasoning.

These permissions come after a legislation change last year, following an EU court hearing that found that The Irish Government had been retaining the public’s digital information against European privacy rules for the past 20 years.

A year on from these sanctions, the Department of Justice has declared a statewide “genuine and serious threat”, with no specification or proof. This label means that The Irish Government will gain special surveillance permissions for the next year.

“There exists a serious and genuine, present or foreseeable threat to the security of the State and that such threat is likely to continue for at least the next 12 months,” McEntee said,

EU law state “Member States are prohibited from collecting and retaining any personal electronic communications data on a general and indiscriminate basis for the purposes of protecting national or public security or to combat serious crime”.

Minister McEntee consulted with Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, to assess the level of threat to Ireland and take precautionary actions, although this threat remains unspecified.

Dr TJ McIntyre, an associate professor at UCD Sutherland School of Law and chair of Digital Rights Ireland claimed that the new permissions are “grossly irresponsible” and that “the past 20 years of Irish data protection practices have been illegal”.

It is expected that The Court of Justice of the European Union may intervene on these new changes.

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