Road Safety Authority “doubling down” against transparency and cooperative approach

— Release of correspondence between State bodies would be “contrary to the public interest”, RSA claims.

Officials at the Road Safety Authority have been accused of “doubling down” against transparency and a cooperative approach because they will not release correspondence between the authority and the Data Protection Commissioner.

The comments were made by Dublin-based Cllr Janet Horner (Green Party), who asked for the correspondence under Freedom of Information legislation. The authority rejected an appeal to its original rejection to release correspondence between it and the Data Protection Commissioner on the issue of the release of road collision data.

The RSA said that releasing records of contact between the two State bodies would be “contrary to the public interest” and would interfere with the current “deliberative process.”

Cllr Horner said: “I would have hoped that all the extra scrutiny recently would make them realise that they need to take a more open, transparent and cooperative approach to issues of road safety, and it is very disappointing that they appear to be doubling down on their refusal to work with public representatives and campaigning groups, who do ultimately share the aims and ambitions they are supposed to be working towards.”

In rejection of the appeal for the release of information, Michael Rowland, director of research, standards and assurance at the RSA, said: “In arriving at my decision I have had regard to the original request, the records concerned and the appeal submitted in this regard. In reviewing the matter I find that circumstances have not changed in respect of the information sought.”

“As explained in the decision dated 13 March 2024, access to correspondence or any records of contact between the Road Safety Authority and the Data Protection Commissioner is being refused as per Sections 29(1)(a) and 29(1)(b) of the FOI Act because this body of work, which began in late 2022, is still underway,” he said.

“As part of the process, a consultation, being led by the Department of Transport, with the Data Protection Commissioner is taking place and the Road Safety Authority is also participating in this consultation. The records fall under the deliberative process, and releasing such records would, in the opinion of the Road Safety Authority, be detrimental to the consultations currently taking place and, therefore, would be contrary to the public interest. At present we do not have a date for completion of this body of work.”

On April 3rd, reported how the RSA hadn’t shared crash data with councils for eight years. This was followed by the airing of a Prime Time special on road safety, which included the issue.

Following the Prime Time programme, Daragh O Brien, a data protection expert who is managing director of Castlebridge, a data protection company, said, “Hiding (incorrectly) behind the GDPR is moral cowardice in the face of a road safety calamity.”

He also pointed to the Data Protection Commission statement to RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigates that said: “GDPR should not prevent the proportionate publication of crash location details, particularly where any personal data element is largely anonymised/limited in detail“.

He wrote: “What should be done now is that the RSA and LGMA [Local Government Management Agency] should stop hiding behind the apron strings of the Data Protection Commission. They should publish their Data Protection Impact Assessment and the legal advice that started all this so that it can be considered. The best way to do that is if they were to publish it as part of the process of entering in to an approved data sharing agreement under the Data Sharing and Governance Act.”

“Or they should step back, look at the data that needs to be shared to help Local Authorities address road safety, exclude unnecessary personal data from that dataset and apply some policy safeguards to prevent reidentification of individuals from the data,” he said.

O Brien added: “But what they really need to do is stop stalling and bullshitting and make a decision to share or not to share.

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