Ireland’s newest mobile phone network has removed the controversial Public Services Card as a requested form of identification after concerns were raised with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.
GoMo, a division of the Eir telecommunications group, launched on October 15 to a deal of fanfare, with prices totalling half of the nearest cheapest competitor in the Irish mobile market for the first 100,000 customers.
The sim-only, online-only carrier runs on Eir’s national mobile network. However it exists as a competitor to the company’s own Eir Mobile brand.
For four days from GoMo’s launch the PSC was one of five accepted forms of identification, together with an “ID number”, on the carrier’s application portal.
Under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, the legislation most frequently cited by the State as giving a legal basis for the PSC, any enterprise seeking to request the card as a form of identification which is not on a list of specified bodies is committing an offence, with a penalty upon indictment of €13,000 or three years in prison, or both.
After concerns had been raised with Social Protection, the Department with overall responsibility for the PSC project, the card option was removed from GoMo’s site. Eir was contacted for comment but did not respond.
The Irish Examiner asked the Department of Social Protection whether or not GoMo’s use of the card constituted a breach of the 2005 act, and if so whether or not any prosecution would ensue. A response had not been received at the time of publication.
Antoin O Lachtnain, director with Digital Rights Ireland and the originator of the initial complaint against GoMo, said that to the best of his knowledge this is the first example of the PSC being used on a web form, but that it’s unlikely to be the last.
He added that the fact the card was one of multiple forms of viable identification in use by GoMo is irrelevant.
“It doesn’t matter that it’s optional, the assurance we got is that the card wouldn’t be used like this, in this kind of context,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“It’s supposed to be used for public services. The dangerous road that we’re on is that it will become a de facto State identity card, and it’s difficult to stop that from happening if large businesses like Eir just presume that they can use it in this way,” Mr O Lachtnain said.
It has been speculated that the web form may have been input from an international template, with the assumption erroneously made that the PSC equates to the national identity card seen in many European countries.