Another reply; another question for the Data Commissioner

When I first asked an official in the Data Commissioner’s office why some companies were named in his Annual Report and some were not I was given the following reasons.

Those not named had cooperated with investigations and therefore there was nothing to be gained by naming them.


Because the report enjoys absolute privilege the decision remains with the Commissioner.

Later I was informed that it’s not necessarily true that those who didn’t cooperate would be named. That, in the end, it’s all down to the decision of the Commissioner.

Because the Data Commissioner does not come under the Freedom of Information Act I do not expect to be told the names of the companies whose identity the Commissioner has decided to keep secret.

I do, however, think I am entitled to know the precise legislation under which the Commissioner has the power to, effectively, bestow protection on some companies and expose others to negative publicity.

The first written reply to my question from the Commissioner’s office claimed that his power stemmed from Section 14 of the Data Protection Acts which grants absolute privilege to the Commissioner’s Annual Report.

I was puzzled by this and replied with the following question.

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

The latest reply from the Commissioner’s office makes no mention of absolute privilege but reverts to the first explanation regarding the advantages to wayward companies who cooperate.

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

I refer you to my previous reply.

The decision to name or not name particular entities is reserved entirely for the Data Protection Commissioner and takes account of many factors including the level of co-operation received during an investigation, the general approach to data protection matters of the entity etc.

Thank you for your interest.


My reply is as follows:


I understand and fully accept that the decision to name or not name entities is reserved entirely for the Data Commissioner.

What I am attempting to ascertain, however, is precisely where in the legislation is the Commissioner’s power to make such decisions located?

I would be grateful for your help in this matter.

Yours etc.,
Anthony Sheridan