A report which ruled that the expansion of the State’s Public Services Card (PSC) is illegal will not be published by the Department of Social Protection until such time as “a full consideration of the report is complete”.
The department said it plans to publish the report on its website, together with its own response, at an unspecified date in the future.
“The department is currently reviewing the report together with the attorney general’s office and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform,” a spokesperson said, adding that the process “is expected to take another week or so”.
“While the department understands that some may wish for us to respond sooner, it should be noted that this is a comprehensive report and requires significant attention. It is not true, as has been reported in some quarters, that the department has had this report for a year.”
Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has previously stated that the findings in the interim report delivered to the department in August 2018 were replicated in last Friday’s final report.
The announcement was accompanied by the first public statement from Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty in a week, in which she said she and her department “take very seriously the findings of the Data Protection Commission and the good work it does”.
Ms Doherty said: “For that reason it is important that bodies that are subject to findings by the commission give very careful consideration to those findings.
The report ruled that the expansion of the card for accessing multiple other State services, such as passport applications, is unlawful. The DPC also decreed historical data held on the card’s 3.2m holders must be deleted by the department.
Last Thursday, the DPC gave the department seven days, which expired yesterday, to say whether or not it would publish the report, or if it would acquiesce to the commissioner doing so.
Responding to the department’s statement, a spokesperson for the DPC said that it “regrets that the report will not be published today”.
“While it is accepted that a reasonable period of time to examine the report and consider how best to address the findings made is required, it is not clear how the publication of the report at this point would cut across that assessment,” said the spokesperson. “Nonetheless, the matter of publication rests with the department and not the DPC.”
The Irish Council of Civil Liberties said it was “alarmed at the lack of transparency” being shown by the department in “withholding” the report.
It said: “We are calling on the department to immediately release the report in full, irrespective of whether it has yet formulated a response. Its analysis of the Data Protection Commissioner’s authoritative findings should in no way impede the public’s right to know about them.”