Department appeals Public Service Card enforcement notice by Data Commissioner

Department appeals Public Service Card enforcement notice by Data Commissioner

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has officially appealed the enforcement notice served upon it regarding the Public Services Card by the Data Protection Commissioner.

A spokesperson for the Department confirmed to the Irish Examiner that it had “filed an appeal against the enforcement notice within the timeframe provided to do so”.

“As the matter is now before the courts it would be inappropriate to make any further comment,” they said.

The enforcement notice, which was served on Tuesday, December 10th, had legally compelled the Department to comply with the findings of a two-year investigation into the controversial card.

The decision by the Department to appeal, which had been widely expected, will almost certainly see the saga concerning the controversial PSC extended by a matter of many months, if not years.

The Department declined to confirm what form the appeal had taken, and in what level of court it had been filed. The likelier event appears to be a direct appeal of the enforcement notice in the circuit court, as opposed to an application for judicial review in the High Court.

The former would suggest an appeal made based upon interpretation of data protection law, as opposed to judicial review which would most likely challenge the procedures by which the Data Protection Commissioner’s conclusions concerning the card were reached.

Any appeal in the Circuit Court would be expected to take a significant period of months to reach a hearing. Once a decision were reached at that level, it could be appealed by either side to the High Court, or - were the decision deemed to be a matter of European law - to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

Should the matter end up in Europe the case could be expected to last at least a further 18 months.

The DPC first revealed the results of her investigation into the legality of the PSC in mid-August, in lieu of publishing her report which she did not have the power to do.

The key findings were that the card is illegal under Irish law when made a requirement for accessing services other than welfare, and that the State’s retention of personal data with regard to the 3.2 million PSCs in existence is unlawful.

The 172 page report harshly criticised the Department under three separate streams - the legal basis for the card or lack thereof; the retention of historic data (primarily utility bills) submitted when applying for the PSC; and issues regarding the level of transparency surrounding the project from the point of view of the citizens it affects.

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