Report on legality of PSC to be published

The Data Protection Commissioner has said its report into the legality of the government’s Public Services Card will be published shortly.

Report on legality of PSC to be published

The Data Protection Commissioner has said its report into the legality of the government’s Public Services Card will be published shortly.

It comes after issues surrounding the card were aired at a meeting at the Pavee Point and Roma Centre in Dublin last night and amid criticism from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties that the card was an example of “how technology can be used against people living in poverty”.

Last night’s event saw the ICCL and Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) invite the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Professor Philip Alston, to speak about how digital surveillance technologies are being introduced into social welfare systems around the globe.

In advance the ICCL said of the Public Service Card:

“The Government has created a digital checkpoint where people must hand over their biometric data in order to put food on the table.

It’s deeply unfair because those required to get the PSC are least likely to be able to fight it.” It also claimed CCTV was used disproportionately to monitor those in disadvantaged areas.

The Data Protection Commissioner has been carrying out an investigation into the PSC since 2017. Last night Prof Alston was expected to call for the publication of the report to spark more debate about the card and its uses.

A spokesperson for the commissioner said: “The DPC’s inquiry into the legality of the PSC is at an advanced stage and we are expecting to conclude the inquiry in the coming weeks.”

In its own report to Prof Alston, the ICCL said the card — required by the department and other government bodies for a wide range of services within Ireland’s social protection systems — “exacerbates the socioeconomic needs of individuals by adding an additional technical barrier that they must cross in order to access essential services”.

“Concerned citizens regularly contact the ICCL because they would rather experience economic precarity than subject their personal data to the collection scheme under the PSC. Others simply have no other economic choice than to submit to the regime.”

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme the Information Rights Project Manager for the ICCL, Elizabeth Farries, said the State is forcing people living in poverty to trade their data to access services to which they are already entitled.

Ms Farries claimed that despite Government claims to the contrary, the PSC is “very clearly” a biometric card. She acknowledged “the horse has bolted” on the issue and welcomed the outcome of an inquiry conducted by the Data Protection Commissioner into the legality of the public services card in the coming weeks.

“The Government has created a digital checkpoint where people must hand over their biometric data in order to put food on the table.

“It’s deeply unfair, because those required to get the PSC are least likely to be able to fight it.”

Earlier this year the Department of Social Protection refused to release information regarding the DPC investigation into the card, claiming it would be “contrary to the public interest”.

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