Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Visitor books are to restored at the landmark heritage site, the Céide Fields, in North Mayo after the Office of Public Works (OPW) reversed an earlier decision to have them banished.

The OPW removed visitor books from some of Ireland’s best-known heritage sites due to concerns the contents of the books might breach EU privacy and data protection rules. The OPW introduced the ban on visitor books as this year’s tourism season started.

However, on Thursday, the OPW said it had “reviewed” the decision following clarification from the Data Protection Commission (DPC), which told it the use of visitor books was not a breach of GDPR.

Frank Shalvey, the head of the OPW’s visitor services division, said the organisation was working to reinstate visitor books at its heritage sites countrywide while ensuring they comply with GDPR.

“The Data Protection Commission has confirmed that our interpretation may have erred on the side of caution and that there is no legal risk,” he said. “The visitor season is at its peak right now and we would expect thousands of people to come to our sites throughout the remainder of July and August, in particular, and we are delighted to offer them the opportunity to leave comments on the books.”

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was put in place in May 2018 as part of EU legislation. It is a set of rules aimed to give EU citizens more control over their personal data.

It requires a higher standard of data protection for EU personal data than was previously in place. Companies that process this data must abide by EU processing standards in order to avoid fines of up to €20 million.

EU data is no longer permitted to be processed in countries outside of the EU that are not on the list of approved countries. Countries that are allowed include the US, Japan and Israel. Under the GDPR, personal data is data that relates to or can identify a living person such as your name, number, bank details and medical history.

The OPW removed visitor books from some of Ireland’s best-known heritage sites, including the Ceide Fields, due to concerns the contents of the books might breach EU privacy and data protection rules.

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