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Online data breaches have long term impacts and the potential for security issues must be examined- Higgins

9th April 2021 - Emer Higgins, TD

Online data breaches have long term impacts and the potential to cause security concerns for the public service and wider society, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Deputy Emer Higgins, Fine Gael’s spokesperson on social media, was speaking after the recent re-emergence of personal details that were leaked in the 2019 Facebook data breach.

“The Facebook data breach occurred in 2019 and the company addressed the problem at the time. However, the recent re-emergence of people’s personal details from that leak shows us that there are longer term implications for data breaches, even years after they’ve happened and been rectified.

“Over 500 million people have been affected by the Facebook breach globally. Ireland has 2.4 million Facebook users and the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), who is investigating the matter, has said that up to 1.5 million of them could have had their details leaked. This could potentially have security implications for the public service and for wider society. For example civil and public servants including the Gardaí, Defence Forces, court staff, social workers and other groups could potentially have been affected by the data breach and we need to consider the possible security implications of that. I would like to see the DPC’s investigation examine that aspect and determine if there are wider implications for society.

“As Fine Gael’s spokesperson on social media, I have been engaging with Facebook for some time on a number of issues and I know this data breach is causing huge concern for people. There is a presumption but also an entitlement that when you hand over this information to Facebook that it be handled sensitively, and a lot of people will rightly feel violated by this data breach.

“Facebook are at the forefront of social media technology and they have a responsibility to handle people’s information and right to privacy with safety and respect. This will massively damage the public’s trust in Facebook and they must address these concerns with their users before it’s too late.

“Having been affected by the data breach myself, it’s not so much my information being out there that concerns me. It’s the potential for people’s private information to be used for cybercrime, fraud and intimidation or attack that concerns me most. We’ve already seen a rise in these sorts of crimes recently and I would be massively concerned that this data breach will only further exacerbate it. The GDPR implications of this breach are also potentially significant and people’s trust in Facebook will be damaged.

“People should not have had to find out from third party sources that their information was leaked, as they have done in recent weeks. Obviously we want Facebook to ensure that such a data breach does not happen again, but I am also calling on Facebook to commit to informing their users directly if their information is ever leaked again.”

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