Public Services Card investigation result a 'disaster of the Governments own making'

Pogramme manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries
Pogramme manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries

The information rights programme manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries has said that the council supports the immediacy of the Data Protection Commissioner's enforcement measures.

"They are appropriate given that the card lacks a legal basis, is unnecessary, and presents serious risks to the highly sensitive personal data it collects. The DPC findings are a disaster of the Government's own making.

"For years, ICCL has urged Government to cease the rollout of the PSC due to human rights concerns, and pending the conclusions of this very investigation."

She told RTÉ's Morning Ireland, that this development "is a very big deal.

"It means in practice that bodies other than the Department can no longer insist that a person must obtain a Public Services Card. The Department will be required to stop all processing of that data.

"Do you need a passport renewed? You no longer need the public services card. Are you appealing a school grant decision? The public services card is no longer required.

"It is a sprawling beast that has grown well beyond its original purpose at great expense to the people living in Ireland in terms of the cost but also in terms of privacy."

Ms Farries said the ICCL had tried to get a copy of the interim report under FOI legislation and the Department had refused saying it was "not in the public interest to see that report".

"It is clear now that the Data Protection Commissioner feels it is in the public interest for everyone to see that report and directed the Department to publish it within seven days."

Government given 21 days to stop misusing Public Services Card

PA

Public Services Card investigation result a 'disaster of the Governments own making'

The Government has been given 21 days to stop misusing the Public Services Card.

An investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner has found that the card is breaching data protection law.

The investigation found there was no legal reason to make people obtain the card in order to access State services such as renewing a driving licence or applying for a college grant.

It was issued by the Department of Social Protection for the purpose of collecting social welfare payments.

The commissioner said it has no issue with the Department processing personal data on the card so that it can be used to claim social welfare - but it does object strongly to the information being shared with other state agencies.

The Commissioner has given the Department 21 days to stop breaching data protection rules.

The department will no longer be able to insist a person has the card to access other public services.

Elizabeth Farries from the Irish Council of Civil Liberties said people can no longer be told they need the card for things such as renewing your driving licence.

She said: "All data processing and requirements for the public services card outside of the department is illegal.

"If you need to get your passport renewed you no longer have to have a public services card. A driver's licence? Not required.

"If you have a problem with a school grant decision and you want to appeal that, you no longer need to pass this digital checkpoint in the form of a public services card to insist on your right."

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil wants the immediate publication of the full report of the Data Protection Commissioner on the Public Services Card.

Backbencher Niamh Smyth TD told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that many questions remain unanswered such as what legal advice the Minister for Social Protection was given on the card and what was the Attorney General’s opinion.

"What was the cost to the State and the taxpayer for the production of a card that had no legal status," she asked.

"The fact that the data of three million people now has to be deleted demonstrates the gravity of the mistake," added Ms Smyth.

"The public had been uncomfortable that 160 groups, bodies and institutions had access to their information and that their details could be shared between departments."

Ms Smyth said that Fianna Fáil welcomed the Data Protection Commissioner’s report and wanted its immediate publication so it could be forensically examined.

Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke

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