Interview with ICCL
ICCL is Ireland’s leading independent human rights organisation. Fully independent of business and government, they are fearless in their advocacy. ICCL has been at the forefront of progressive grass roots change in Ireland since their founding and their work is rooted in international human rights legal and policy expertise. We spoke to Johnny Ryan and Kris Shrishak to find out more about their work.
ICCL defends rights and liberties across the board in Ireland. How does your work around AI fit in within this mission?
Johnny & Kris: Over the last five decades we have fought historic campaigns. We helped legalise homosexuality, divorce, and contraception in Ireland. We drove police reform, defending suspects’ rights during the dark times of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland. The use of AI affects all these rights.
It is of great consequence to everyone’s rights and wellbeing. We cannot neglect it.
One of your current pieces of litigation focuses on online advertising. Can you tell us more about the importance of regulating it?
Johnny & Kris: We are currently litigating to protect people’s data and privacy against the online advertising industry in courts in Germany, Dublin, and California. We recently completed a case in Belgium.
The online advertising’s Real-Time Bidding (RTB) system is a $117+ billion industry, and causes the biggest data breach ever recorded. It tracks and shares what people view online and their real-world location with countless companies. In Europe, RTB exposes people’s data 376 times a day.
See our latest evidence, legal submission, and milestones on RTB here:
What are the main challenges you face in your work?
Johnny & Kris: Time. We devote a large part of our time examining technology, in addition to legislation. We have learned that mastery of both is essential for us to make forensic and compelling interventions in legislative drafting. Time also challenges our litigation work because Covid-19 severely slowed Europe’s courts.
How does ICCL’s work in Ireland impact/is influenced by the wider European context?
Johnny & Kris: Ireland is a crucible of data protection, because of the Big Tech firms that have their headquarters there, and the one-stop-shop principle in the GDPR. However, we also focus much of our legislative work on the EU co-legislators, especially on technology-policy files such as the AI Act.
What is your vision for a healthy, safe digital environment?
Johnny & Kris: Law, properly conceived and robustly enforced. We have little faith in self-regulation. Our vision is of a future where the European Commission not only proposes strong protections in law, but also acts and upholds these protections. The Commission is not upholding its duty to monitor the application of EU Law by Member States. Nor is it robustly policing tech industry competition.