New privacy rules could make this woman one of tech’s most important regulators – station finder how to prevent staphylococcus aureus

Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation is seen by experts as the world’s most aggressive set of internet privacy rules. It is expected to come into force on May 25, and it will give more than 500 million people living in the European Union the right to keep companies from collecting personal data, or to have it deleted. Regulators like Ms. Dixon will be able to fine companies up to 4 percent of global revenue — equivalent to about $1.6 billion for Facebook.

The privacy law highlights broader skepticism of Silicon Valley in Europe, where regulators have punished companies for violating tax and antitrust laws, not doing enough to stop the spread of hate speech and misinformation online, and intrusively gobbling up data on consumers.

But for all the tough talk, the reality is that her agency subsists on an annual budget of 7.5 million euros, equivalent to $9 million.


That’s roughly as much revenue as the companies she oversees generate over all in 10 minutes. Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, has hundreds of people globally working on data protection regulation alone, including lawyers and privacy experts hired in Dublin.

The data protection office was once an afterthought. During an effort by the Irish government to move less-critical agencies out of Dublin, it was relocated in 2006 50 miles west to a town called Portarlington, population 8,368. Its power was so limited that it could not publicize investigations.

Ms. Dixon, whose father was an army officer and mother a schoolteacher, grew up in a small town in central Ireland before moving to Dublin for university. She worked for companies including the business software firm Citrix Systems before moving into government. She later received a postgraduate diploma in computer science.

Fittingly for her current position, Ms. Dixon guards her privacy. She will not share her age, other than saying she is in her “40s,” and she has become more careful with data since taking the job. She does not use Facebook or Instagram (though she does have a LinkedIn profile).

Since taking over in 2014, Ms. Dixon has successfully lobbied for more funding and got the headquarters put back in Dublin. A move to a bigger office is in the works. She has hired lawyers, investigators and engineers. The staff will total 140 this year, up from 30 when she joined, with plans to reach 200 in the next few years, if budget increases are approved.

But if data privacy is truly a priority globally, Ms. Dixon said, more resources are needed. Her office is actually among the better funded privacy agencies globally, but is still a minnow compared with, say, Ireland’s financial services regulator, which has a budget about 40 times greater.

“The question for governments is, how much enforcement do we want to do, how seriously do we want to take the risk to our fundamental rights and freedoms in this area?” said Ms. Dixon, carrying a bound copy of the new law. “We need the funding and resources commensurate with the level of importance. This office would suggest it should be far more highly resourced.”

Advocates of the new law say it is already having a positive impact and that oversight is spread out. A new European Data Protection Board will help coordinate investigations and pool resources across European Union countries, giving regulators outside Ireland the ability to bring action. The data protection regulation also allows private groups to recruit consumers into class-action-style complaints — not as common in Europe as the United States — that could result in sizable damages against businesses.

“We should be acting as data protection authorities in the name of data subjects, but you often as a regulator in this space have the feeling that you’re not mandated by the general public,” she said. “Either they don’t care or they actively oppose what we’re doing.”

Representatives from the technology industry have made regular visits to the converted 18th-century Georgian home used by Ms. Dixon’s team. Aware that a public backlash is putting pressure on regulators to rein in Silicon Valley, Facebook and others have been courting Ms. Dixon, putting forward their case that their data protection policies comply with the new European law.