EU GDPR Ireland

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner calls for answers on controversial Public Services Card

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, has issued a statement on the country’s controversial Public Services Card (PSC). Concerns have been building that the card – ostensibly a confirmation of identity for social welfare recipients – is a national ID card by the back door. When Minister for Employment and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, stated that the card was ‘mandatory, not compulsory’ to receive public services, public concern mounted.

As the Irish government continued to send out mixed messages on everything from whether or not biometric data was collected to where the information is stored and who it will be shared with, many of the country’s data protection experts have spoken against the lack of any public debate around national identity cards.

This evening’s statement from the Data Protection Commissioner suggests that, at the very least, some clarity will be forthcoming shortly. In addition to highlighting the Commission’s repeated efforts to extract some kind of clarity, the statement said “There is a a pressing need for updated, clearer and more detailed information to be communicated to the public and services users regarding the mandatory use of the Public Services Card for accessing public services.”

The Commissioner says she has “Sought that the Department of Social Protection publish a comprehensive FAQ to fully clarify all of the arrangements, procedures and legislative provisions relating to PSS,” including:

  • How the legislative provisions set out in the relevant Social Welfare Acts, which have been cited to the Data Protection Commissioner as the legal basis for the PSC, provide a robust legal basis for what is now being implemented across the public sector, beyond public services provided by the Department of Social Protection?
  • How is data collected as part of the issuing of a PSC secured?
  • Who can access it?
  • How does the Safe 2 identity verification process interface with the Single Customer View & MyGovID?
  • How it will interface with the published General Scheme of the Data Sharing and Governance Bill?

The Department has agreed to answer and publish its responses, which the Commissioner says “We expect will be published imminently.”

The full statement can be read here.