Data complaint filed against GeoDirectory for ‘selling personal information’ to companies

THE IRISH COUNCIL for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has lodged a complaint with the Data Protection Commission against GeoDirectory, the address database created by An Post and Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSI).

The ICCL claims that GeoDirectory is selling personal information, such as people’s social class and family status, to companies.

The organization said it was able to buy data on people living in Limerick and Dublin and whether they are “deprived”, “strugglers” or “rich”.

“I was able to buy data on each of my neighbors, how much money they have and whether or not they are single. This information is specially protected by EU law,” said Olga Cronin, ICCL Technology and Human Rights Officer.

“But GeoDirectory markets this information to companies to match names and addresses on their existing customer lists with GeoDirectory profiles on their customers.”

The ICCL said that 2.2 million Irish households and their residents are profiled under headings such as “struggling urban singles”, “deprived urban families” or “distressed elderly families”.

Cronin said that GeoDirectory is in breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as EU data protection law defines any data that can identify a person “directly or indirectly” as protected personal data.

“The law is clear. GeoDirectory, An Post and OSI are violating the GDPR. It is time for the Data Protection Commission to intervene,” she added.

GeoDirectory was established jointly by An Post and OSI in 1999 to maintain a database of residential and commercial housing in Ireland.

The database is used by a number of organisations, including Aviva, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), ESB Networks and Experian Ireland.

According to ICCL, GeoDirectory data is provided by An Post, OSI, and the census, including income, labor market skills, age, cultural background, and family status.

In a statement to The newspapera spokesperson for An Post said that GeoDirectory “uses only publicly available information”.

“We are not aware of any complaints to the Data Protection Commissioner at this stage, but we are happy to work with the Commissioner if necessary,” they added.

A statement to The newspaper of Aviva said: “Aviva Insurance Ireland DAC (Aviva) confirms that it uses address and location data from GeoDirectory. This is not unique to Aviva, as many other insurers use GeoDirectory services, for example to identify areas at high risk of flooding.

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“However, Aviva does not license, receive, own or use any GEOdirectory social profile information described in the ICCL press release,” the statement said.

In a statement to The newspapersaid the CSO that never sells or shares information with third parties.

“Personal information provided to the CSO in the Census and other surveys is completely confidential and is protected by law, under Section 33 of the Statistics Act 1993,” the statement said.

He said all data released by the CSO is in aggregate form so it never identifies individuals or households. “Details relating to an identifiable person or individual household are never disclosed to private companies, government departments or public bodies,” she said.

He added that the data collected by the CSO is only used for statistical purposes and that all aggregate statistics are freely available for all to see on his website.

“The publication of data in aggregate form means that no individual or family can be identified. No third party has access to the personal data provided to the CSO.

“As the national statistics agency, the CSO collects data on many aspects of Irish life to provide information to the government, other agencies, businesses and communities to help them make informed decisions, allocate resources and plan for the future.”

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