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NUJ gravely concerned over reported data breach at INM

3 April 2018

The National Union of Journalists is gravely concerned at the serious claims made by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement in relation to breaches of the data protection rights of employees of Independent News and Media plc.

Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary, has again called on the company to publicly clarify the extent to which the personal data of staff, including the confidential records of journalists, were compromised by the removal of the   company IT system’s back up tapes from the company’s premises in Dublin to a location outside the state. He said:

"The decision to remove records from the premises to another jurisdiction in itself compromised the privacy rights of employees. Every employer has a legal obligation to protect personnel record. It is imperative that INM issue an unambiguous explanation to employees about what has happened and why their data appears to have been put at risk.
"In January I sought specific assurances from the company and was advised that INM was not in a position to respond while a legal case was underway. Now that the contents of the ODCE affidavit are in the public domain - by virtue of having been published in INM’s own newspaper, the Sunday Independent, as well as in the Sunday Times, (April 1st) the company can no longer hide behind legal arguments.

"Clear lines appear to have been crossed and it is in the long-term interest of the company and of Irish journalism that this matter is addressed as a matter of urgency.

"Arising from today’s revelations there is particular concern about the threat to the confidentiality of journalistic sources. INM journalists will be worried about the suggestion that at least six companies external to their employer had access to INM data.

"The Data Protection Commissioner must initiate an immediate investigation into this matter, separate from the proposed ODCE investigation. It now appears that previous assurances given to the Commissioner by INM were based on incomplete information.

"If the High Court grants the ODCE application to have an investigator appointed to inspect the affairs of INM  this month the investigation would be long and complex. I would be concerned if this delay were to be used as grounds for not engaging with staff. We will be seeking a meeting with the company and will be offering assistance to NUJ members who are concerned that their rights may have been breached.

"Given the ownership structure of the media in Ireland and the identity of the majority shareholder in INM it is also vital that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland monitor the situation.

"Trust and confidence in the integrity of journalism is undermined when corporate interests take precedence over editorial values.  Editors and journalists must be able to operate secure in the knowledge that editorial independence will never be undermined through commercial expediency.”

Tags: , Independent News and Media, Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ireland, data protection, Sunday Independent, Sunday Times, protection of sources, sources, Data Protection Commissioner, ODCE, Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, editorial independence