Tuesday 16 August 2016

Data protection concerns force Dublin records offline

Courtesy of the Data Protection Commission (DPC), the Dublin City Electoral Lists for 1937-64 have been taken offline from the free to access Dublin City Libraries & Archives Heritage Databases site. See note on the site.

As I understand it, this instance of the DPC getting involved in the removal of online access to records has come about rather more organically than the last, which saw online availability of the General Register Office's birth, marriage and death indexes seriously curtailed in July 2014. That earlier occasion came about as the result of a complaint from one person with a vested interest in the records being kept offline.

This time round has nothing to do with 'protectionism', but once again, the DPC's intervention means that public access to the records of a lot of dead people is being restricted.

In the 1937 list, for example, eligibility for the vote started at age 21, so it is made up in its entirety of people born at least 100 years ago. Only 600 or so over-100 year olds live in Ireland; I wonder how many would be even slightly troubled by someone knowing where they lived 79-odd years ago. Even if you take the 1964 list, the youngest people in the list would now be in their mid-70s. What possible harm could be done by anyone (never mind genealogists!) knowing where someone lived more than half a century ago?

The lists didn't provide any other information: not ages, not household members, nada. Just name and address, and the certainty that the person listed was of voting age.

The knee-jerk response by the DPC is made all the more ridiculous when you consider that you can freely check the CURRENT electoral list for anywhere in Ireland at checktheregister.ie.

Representations to the DPC are being made, and I'll bring you more information in due course*.

Note: The database is available to personal visitors in the Reading Room of the DCL&A in Pearse Street, Dublin.

*Monday 22 August: See Irish Times : Removal of Dublin electoral database unwarranted, by Steven Smyrl MAGI FIGRS.