The Irish Times reports this morning that a woman in her 70s has had her pension payments stopped because she refused to get the State’s certainly-not-mandatory Public Services Card and add herself to the national biometric identity register which the State is definitely not building.
No doubt some ministers and officials in the departments of Social Protection and Public Expenditure and Reform have found the semantic games played over the meaning of words such as ‘mandatory’ and ‘compulsory’ intellectually stimulating in much the same way you or I might enjoy a crossword. As pleasurable as it may be for those involved, this sophistry can’t continue.
If the State is going to withdraw payments to those entitled to them unless they add themselves to the identity register then the State should let citizens and residents know, in plain and unambiguous language, that this is the case. Then everyone will know precisely what the situation is regarding the identity register and its plastic physical manifestation, the Public Services Card. Sanctions for those who do not wish to be added to the register can be decided upon, and the full powers of the State can be brought to bear overtly rather than covertly to compel all individuals to get the card.
As the ambiguity over whether participation in the register is compulsory or not is being resolved, the State can also provide explanations as to
- Why the register is necessary. Possible improvements in administrative efficiency don’t justify a radical repositioning of citizens’ and residents’ relationship with the State on this scale.
- Why State-issued documents such as the passport and driver’s licence are being downgraded as acceptable forms of identification
- Why the scope of a project which was described by the Comptroller & Auditor General’s office as not having a business case has ballooned to such an alarming extent
Public representatives who have a perhaps newfound interest in data protection laws (‘TDs fear new data protection laws will hamper constituency work’, Irish Times) could take this opportunity to query the relevant ministers and departments about the aims and erratic but dangerous direction of the identity register.
Digital Rights Ireland have expressed their concern about the further rollout of the Public Services Card described in the recently published eGovernment strategy.
The Public Services Card is actually much bigger than the card itself. It is a plan that will result in the linking up of private, intimate details of Irish citizens’ lives across all sections of government, including the education system, Gardai and the Health Service. There is no legal framework to provide for this to be done in a fair, safe and legal manner.
+ ‘New ‘egovernment’ strategy is a national identity card by the back door’, Digital Rights Ireland
This thread from Rossa McMahon covers many of the problems with the card concisely.
A little rant about ID cards, not really getting into the substantive privacy and other concerns, but rather than governance/politics.
— Rossa McMahon (@rossamcmahon) August 18, 2017
Image credit: Samuel Zeller on Unsplash