512. Deputy Denise Mitchell asked the Minister for Justice if she plans to amend section 30 of the Data Protection Act 2018 to prevent targeted advertising to children or to produce a similar piece of legislation with the same purpose; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [28383/21]
Minister for Justice (Deputy Heather Humphreys): The Deputy will appreciate that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU wide instrument and Member States including Ireland cannot deviate from its provisions, nor will guidelines supersede that position.
Commencement of section 30 of the Data Protection Act 2018, raises serious matters, including the risk of infringement proceedings and the potential for significant penalties against the State. The processing of personal data for marketing and profiling purposes takes place under the so-called “legitimate interests” ground in Article 6.1(f) of the GDPR, with the case law of the European Court of Justice underlining the importance of free movement of personal data and establishing that Member States are not permitted to impose additional conditions that would have the effect of amending the scope of any of the grounds now set out in Article 6.1 of the GDPR.
The Office of the Attorney General has also advised my Department that section 30 of the 2018 Act appears to go beyond the margin of discretion afforded to Member States in giving further effect to the GDPR and would conflict with Article 6(1) (f), read alongside Recital (47). Put simply, it is not an option for a Member State to unilaterally prohibit a category of processing activities which might otherwise be lawful under Article 6.1(f). The commencement of section 30 could, therefore, give rise to a substantial risk of infringement proceedings against the State pursuant to Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The European Commission has also confirmed that processing of personal data for direct marketing purposes may be regarded as carried out for a legitimate interest and that Article 6(1) (f) of the GDPR does not make the processing of personal data of a child for the purposes of direct marketing unlawful.
The Commission also indicated that subject to Article 22 (automated decision-making), processing of personal data of a child for the purposes of profiling is not generally prohibited, albeit the processing must take into account that children merit specific protection as clarified in recital (38).
Moreover, the Commission have indicated that the term "micro-targeting", as referenced in Section 30 of the Act, is not mentioned in the GDPR, and its scope remains uncertain and undefined.
Apart from this apparent conflict with the GDPR, the Office of the Attorney General has advised that section 30 gives rise to difficulties under Article 38.1 of the Constitution and under Article 7 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 38.1 provides that no person shall be tried on any criminal charge save in due course of law. In order for a domestic offence provision to comply with Article 38.1, it must be clear, precise and foreseeable in its application. It is not clear under section 30 what might constitute the processing of personal data of a child for the purposes of micro-targeting. It is also a requirement under Article 7 of the Convention that offence provisions must be sufficiently clear and precise so as to enable individuals to ascertain which conduct constitutes a criminal offence and to foresee the consequences of engaging in such conduct.
Officials in my Department are keeping this issue under review.