Another question for the Data Commissioner

Just couldn’t get that answer I received from the Data Commissioner out of my mind regarding the naming of companies in his annual report so I’ve asked for some clarification.


Thank you for the information regarding the naming of companies/individuals in the Data Commissioner’s Annual Report.

I am, however, still puzzled and would be grateful if you could explain further.

My understanding is that, under the rule of absolute privilege, a statement cannot be sued on as defamatory even if made maliciously.

The most visible example, as you will know, is the absolute privilege extended to politicians speaking in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

My understanding is that this legal facility is given to politicians so that they can bring certain matters to public attention without fear of being sued.

In other words, the facility acts as a protection for politicians and, I presume, the Data Commissioner, so that they can serve the public interest by making pubic, information which could not otherwise be made available outside of absolute privilege.

I would be grateful if you could help clarify the matter for me by answering the following question.

How is it possible to name some companies under the protection of absolute privilege but not to name others given that the entire report clearly enjoys the protection of absolute privilege?

The decision to name some but not others is especially puzzling when it is realised that some of the breaches are practically identical.

For example:

Case 13 deals with a company refusing to divulge information to a customer and the company is named.

Case 10, on the other hand, deals with financial institutions refusing to divulge information to customers but the Commissioner decided that these companies could not be named.

Yours etc.,
Anthony Sheridan