The outgoing Data Protection Commissioner has said the public service still has "a long way to go" in changing the way it views the safeguarding of personal information.

Speaking ahead of stepping down from the role he has held for 12 years, Billy Hawkes said it is the duty of every public body to secure the information it held about members of the public, information which in many cases people are obliged under law to provide.

He said he still had serious issues with the public service's handling of personal data.

He said bodies such as the Health Service Executive, the Department of Social Protection and An Garda Siochána, for example, should make protecting personal information one of their priorities.

On RTÉ's News at One, he said: "We still have a long way to go in terms of getting across the necessary cultural change that basically if you work in one of these organisations, you have privileged access to personal information of others.

"You may only access it for reasons relating to your job and you must maintain absolute security around it."

Mr Hawkes said public bodies should think before they publish personal information about individuals.

He added that they had to consider whether they had the consent of the person, whether there was some basis in law that overrides such individual consent, or whether there was a public interest reason to publish it.