The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection did not share the interim adversarial findings of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) regarding the Public Services Card (PSC) with any affected bodies apart from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. This was despite being specifically asked and in a position to do so.
Earlier this week, the Irish Examiner revealed that Social Protection was queried by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) about whether any “red flag” was raised by that interim report regarding the authority’s own prospective use of the PSC for its postal driving licence applications. The RSA received no definitive answer to that question.
In its response, a senior Social Protection official told the authority that the provisional findings of the interim report had to be dealt with “in the strictest confidence” at the behest of the Data Protection Commission itself, and that the report could not “be shared with any third party, without the express permission of the (Commissioner)”.
The DPC has now confirmed that Social Protection did indeed seek, and was granted, permission to share the report with the Department of Public Expenditure — the body with principal responsibility for expanding the PSC to non-welfare State services like passport applications — but that no other such requests were received.
A DPC spokesperson told the Irish Examiner:
The DPC’s interim report into the controversial PSC, which has been criticised by civil liberties groups as being a national ID card introduced by stealth, was delivered to Social Protection in late August 2018.
While the fact that the report had been delivered — at the mid-way point of a two-year investigation on the part of the State’s data regulator — was public knowledge, its contents remained shrouded in secrecy at the time.
It has since emerged that the findings of the draft report were highly critical of the PSC project, a stance also seen in the final version, published on August 16 of this year, which among other adversarial rulings found that the card is illegal when used for the processing of State services other than welfare.
The RSA’s postal application portal for driving licences was launched with a view towards the closure of 80% of its 36 licence processing offices nationwide after February 2021.
However, the PSC was not made mandatory for such applications, and remains an option only, said the RSA.