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Ireland is Europe’s ‘Wild West’ of data protection

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The Irish Council for Civil Liberties’ report into the enforcement of data regulations in Europe described Ireland as a ‘bottleneck’ for GDPR complaints.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has called Ireland “Europe’s Wild West when it comes to data protection”.

According to a report released today (13 September) by the ICCL, entitled Europe’s enforcement paralysis, Big Tech companies including Facebook and Google are enjoying a “data free-for-all” in Ireland.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) is the lead authority for GDPR-related complaints against Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google and other tech players that have European headquarters in Ireland.

Together with Spain, Germany, Sweden, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Ireland receives 72pc of all cross-border complaints referred between data protection authorities (DPAs) in the EU.

Echoing previous criticisms levelled at the DPC by the ICCL, the report described Ireland as a “bottleneck” for these complaints. It said the Irish watchdog is the lead supervisory authority for 164 European cases, but almost all (98pc) of these remain unresolved.

Earlier this month, it issued its largest ever fine to WhatsApp for GDPR breaches.

GDPR established a ‘one-stope shop’ mechanism that allows companies to handle much of their GDPR responsibilities in one country, which in many cases is Ireland. One-fifth of all complaints referred between DPAs are referred to the DPC, the report said, and other DPAs across Europe are prevented from intervening if the Irish DPC takes the lead in cases against tech firms headquartered here.

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According to the ICCL report, the DPC is “chronically underfunded” and has been for decades. It recommended that the Irish Government conduct an independent review to reform and strengthen the DPC.

It also recommended that the Minister for Justice appoint two additional data protection commissioners.

The report said that Europe’s DPAs are not adequately resourced for the digital era and lack the capacity to investigate and understand what tech companies do with people’s data. Only five EU member states have more than 10 tech specialists, it said, but more than half have only four or fewer.

The ICCL was critical of the European Commission and claimed that due to failures across the region as a whole, GDPR legislation is “silently failing”.

In the report’s foreword by senior ICCL fellows Alan Toner and Johnny Ryan, it claimed that DPA budget boosts have declined every year since the GDPR was introduced in 2018, “which indicates that national governments are not committed to the GDPR’s proper application”.

“The European Commission is at fault, too,” Toner and Ryan wrote.

“It has the duty under the EU Treaties to ensure that EU law is applied. But the Commission has inadequate data to judge whether the GDPR is applied correctly. There is no consistent view across the European Economic Area of whether or how often lead DPAs use their investigative powers, or what specific powers are used.”

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New UK broadband rules will make it easier to switch supplier | Broadband

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The UK media regulator, Ofcom, has introduced a new service to make it easier for customers to switch broadband supplier to get a better deal.

Ofcom hopes the new process, One Touch Switch, will encourage people to seek out better deals after research found that more than two-fifths of people were put off switching broadband suppliers because of the hassle.

People can already switch between providers that use Openreach’s broadband network – such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk – through a process requiring a customer to only contact their new supplier.

However, until now customers looking to change networks or technologies – such as between Virgin Media’s network and a provider on Openreach or other smaller networks such as Hyperoptic or CityFibre – had to deal with both the new and old supplier simultaneously.

Ofcom research found that a quarter of customers making such a switch faced attempts by their provider to stop them. The One Touch Switch process aims to eliminate these issues, including customers having to sort out the end and start dates of their old and new services.

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“Household finances are strained at the moment, so switching broadband provider could help keep your bills down,” said Lindsey Fussell, the network and communications group director at Ofcom. “We’re making it as easy as possible for you to break up with your broadband provider and take advantage of the deals on offer.”

Ofcom said the new rules will also mean that suppliers will have to compensate customers if they are left without internet for more than one working day during a switch. All suppliers must introduce Ofcom’s new simplified switching process by April 2023.

The regulator has introduced a range of measures in recent years to make sure customers have access to the best deals. These include cracking down on the so-called “loyalty penalty” by which customers who stick with their broadband, mobile or pay-TV supplier are not offered the same discount deals as new customers.

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India, Japan flex cyber-defence muscles as China seethes • The Register

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India and Japan have each flexed their cyber-defence muscles in ways that China can’t miss.

Japan’s flex was the Monday launch of a national cyber-security policy that for the first time names China, Russia, and North Korea as sources of heightened threat. The policy also calls for Japan’s Self Defence Force to increase its digital capabilities.

The new plan was released as expected under Japan’s policy of refreshing its defensive plans every three years. The theme for the policy is “Cybersecurity for all” and chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said its aim is to ensure that no part of Japanese society goes without the protections it needs.

Kato said the plan was also developed because Japan’s government “recognised a threat” and therefore a need to strengthen its online defences. The policy documents list many recent infosec incidents – such as the attack on SolarWinds and Microsoft’s Exchange flaw – as the sort of thing Japan needs to counter.

India’s flex came from vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who on Monday visited a military museum and remarked that India’s security forces should “prepare themselves to dominate not only in a conventional war but also establish their superiority in the new and emerging areas of conflict such as information and cyber warfare along with the increasing use of robotics and drones in the battlefield”.

“The nation is assured that any misadventure by an adversary will be given a befitting reply by the Indian Army,” Naidu said.

While the position of vice-president is largely ceremonial – the officeholder is backup to the head of state, but actual power resides with Parliament – Naidu’s words have weight. Doubly so as he stated India faces “both symmetric and asymmetric threats from outside and within” and then asserted India’s sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir and argued that previous arrangements that gave the territory autonomy were temporary.

Mentioning Jammu & Kashmir is significant, as the disputed India/China border is in the territory. The territory is also the subject of a dispute with Pakistan.

Kashmiri separatists, which India labels Pakistan-supported terrorists, and China, will all have noticed the veep urging India to arm itself in the kinetic and digital realms.

China has certainly noticed last week’s meeting of “The Quad” – the grouping of Australia, the USA, Japan, and India – and its announcement of plans to develop infosec standards it hopes the world will follow.

China’s foreign ministry has labelled The Quad a “closed and exclusive clique” informed by “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and ideological bias”.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying addressed the issue at a press conference in response to a question from Russian news agency TASS. “For some time, these countries have been keen on insinuating China with the so-called ‘rules-based order’, playing up and inciting the so-called ‘China threat’ theory, and driving a wedge between regional countries and China.”

Te actions of Japan and India actions suggest the wedge is working. ®

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Do you know how to spot the signs of burnout?

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People have been more likely to experience burnout of late, but do you know what the signs of burnout actually are?

Burnout has been a problem for many workers for years, but the last year and a half could give rise to more burnout than ever among the global workforce.

Unsurprisingly, frontline workers have been under severe pressure throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but other workers are not immune from the effects of the pandemic.

One example is cybersecurity professionals, who had to deal with the security ramifications of a mass move to remote working as well as a dramatic acceleration of digital transformation and an onslaught of cyberattacks.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

But even just for the regular knowledge worker who had to move from the office to their homes due to the pandemic, the likelihood of burnout has increased.

A survey from earlier this year highlighted the level of overtime that workers in Ireland have been putting in since the start of the pandemic, with many remote workers finding it harder to disconnect.

However, it’s important not to conflate burnout with working long hours. While putting in continuous overtime can be a contributing factor to burnout, it doesn’t mean those who work within their designated hours are not in danger of suffering in the same way.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is an occupational phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

And that stress does not only come from too many hours. So how do you recognise the signs of burnout?

Feeling disengaged with work

Cynicism or having a mental distance from your job is one of the dimensions mentioned by WHO as a clear sign of burnout.

What was once engaging and challenging for you is no longer motivating you. You might suddenly feel like you don’t care about the job you’re doing and this makes it harder to get up in the morning.

You might even feel completely disillusioned with the job to the point where you feel like you hate it even though you never felt like that before.

Physical symptoms

While burnout is not considered a medical condition, it can manifest with very physical symptoms.

Because burnout comes as a result of ongoing high-stress situations, your body will react by releasing cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone.

This puts your body under intense stress and when this is happening on a continuous basis, your body will essentially wear itself out, resulting in aching muscles, headaches and stomach problems, to name a few.

Exhaustion

Along with the physical symptoms that may be manifesting, the burnout you’re feeling is also most likely going to lead to intense exhaustion, both emotionally and physically.

Burnout can play havoc on a person’s sleep cycle, especially if that excess cortisol is keeping them awake late or waking them up with feelings of anxiety in the middle of the night.

However, even those who appear to have had an uninterrupted sleep can wake up feeling constantly drained or will find their energy levels depleting quickly throughout the day as a result of burnout. This reduction in energy is another key dimension of burnout according to WHO.

Reduced performance and productivity

WHO’s third dimension of burnout is “reduced professional efficacy”. This means that along with being exhausted and working through a really stressful time in work, you are also more likely to see your own job performance slipping.

You may find yourself procrastinating despite your increasingly rising to-do list and your cynicism and disengagement from the job is stopping you from even wanting to tackle it.

Another major sign of burnout is cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating or struggling with remembering things. These cognitive issues along with your exhaustion are bound to have a ricochet effect on your performance.

Extreme emotions

Unsurprisingly, prolonged burnout and subsequent exposure to some or all of the above symptoms can wreak havoc on your emotional state.

Your defence systems are severely lowered, which means you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed, angry, bitter, upset or that you’re about to burst into tears at any moment.

You could find yourself lashing out unfairly or quick to frustration or anger at certain situations. These emotions will continue to be fuelled by an ongoing cycle of stress, exhaustion, disengagement and could lead to chronic burnout.

What to do

If any of the above sounds familiar, it’s important to first acknowledge the problem and stop yourself from thinking you’ll be fine if you just get through the next week/month/project.

If you’re suffering from burnout now, it’s only going to get worse, so the first step is to talk to your manager about how you’re feeling. Often, one of the best things you can do to start healing from burnout is to take some time off and engage in some self-care.

Self-care does not have to mean wellbeing retreats or yoga classes. It’s about re-engaging with your body and putting healthy habits back into your life while you take a mental break from work.

This means resetting your sleep patterns, making sure you take some time to exercise and eating reasonably healthy to give your body the best chance at building resilience.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

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