This is an attempt to collect and organise some of the recent media coverage of the Public Services Card and the national identity register that lurks behind it. As you scroll through these you’ll notice many of them were reported by Elaine Edwards of the Irish Times, who has put in a huge amount of often unacknowledged effort over years to bring this to wider attention.
If there’s any coverage or comment missing which you think should be included here feel free to get in touch on Twitter (@PrivacyKit ) or drop an email to hello[at]myprivacykit.com.
24th February 2018
Now, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) has launched an official tender for bids for the ‘implementation, production, personalisation and distribution of the Public Services Card and the provision of associated services’.
This news suggests that, despite concerns over the PSC’s legal viability and the extent to which it will comply with the EU’s forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Social Protection is fully committed to the card for the foreseeable future.
✎ ‘Government seeking bids for design and production of PSC generation two’, The Journal
23rd February 2018
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner issued a statement in response to some of the claims made by Tim Duggan of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection at the Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection on Thursday 22nd (see below). The statement was unambiguous in rejecting Mr Duggan’s version of events relating to the establishment of a hotline which ended up costing the state somewhere in the region of €3 million.
The disagreement over the comments made before the Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection on Thursday marks an apparent deterioration in relations between the department and the commissioner, which is continuing a formal investigation into aspects of the PSC project.
✎ ‘Data chief rejects civil servant’s claim over public services card ‘hotline”, Irish Times
The office of the Data Protection Commissioner has denied claims that it requested a €3 million hotline for public services cards.
It has put the office at odds with the Department of Social Protection, which said last night that it stood by comments by Tom Duggan, assistant secretary at the department, that Billy Hawkes, the former data protection chief, had instructed it to establish a public services card hotline.
✎ ‘Row heating up over €3m public services cards hotline’, The Times, Ireland Edition
Special native advertising update. Spotted by Simon McGarr .
A curious story appeared on the Irish Independent website on Wednesday 21st. Headlined ‘Dreaded driver licence applications set to get simpler with new service card’, there is no byline attached. The piece is attributed to “Our Road Safety Authority expert” and later, confusingly, “Indo Motoring”.
The piece is not marked as advertising but it certainly reads like advertising. It has a description of the supposed benefits of the product and even a comprehensive call to action:
If you don’t yet have a PSC, you can make an appointment to get one either by using www.psc.gov.ie by getting in touch with your local Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection office, or lo call 1890 927 999. You can apply for a PSC at more than 100 locations.
✎‘Dreaded driver licence applications set to get simpler with new service card’, Irish Independent [archived]
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland has a section in their code of conduct called ‘Recognisability’.
3.31 A marketing communication should be designed and presented in such a way that it is clear that it is a marketing communication.
3.32 Marketing communications should not misrepresent their true purpose. Marketing communications should not be presented as, for example, market research, consumer surveys, user-generated content, private blogs, or independent reviews if their purpose is marketing, i.e. the promotion of a product.
3.33 Advertorials should be clearly identified, should be distinguished from editorial matter and should comply with the Code.
3.34 The identity of the advertiser, product or service should be apparent. This does not apply to marketing communications with the sole purpose of attracting attention to communication activities to follow (so called “teaser advertisements”).
Some general principles of the code are laid out at the start of section 3.
3.1 Primary responsibility for observing the Code rests with advertisers. Advertisers cannot disclaim responsibility where they have caused, directly or indirectly, advertising to be created by direct agents or other third parties on their behalf. Others involved in the preparation and publication of marketing communications, such as agencies, media, affiliates and other service providers, also accept an obligation to abide by the Code.
In January the Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform responded to the following question from Niall Collins TD
To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the Government initiatives in his Department in 2017 that promoted State services or welfare payments, public awareness of regulatory changes and public consultations that involved advertising and promotion on television, radio, newspapers and online, in tabular form; and the level of expenditure for each such initiative.
In his answer Minister Donohoe provides the breakdown in a table, as requested. Summarised, the figures are
+ Expenditure on ads for the PSC – €205,440.00
+ Expenditure on ads for everything else – €25,435.29
By my calculations that’s 88.98% of the advertising budget for the year being spent on promoting the Public Services Card.
Perhaps the next time the minister is asked about expenditure on advertising he could provide some greater level of detail as to the nature of the advertisements that were placed in national and local print media.
This would be of particular interest since The Times reported today that
The government’s strategic communications unit arranged for sponsored content to appear in local, regional and national newspapers including the Irish Independent and The Irish Times.
✎ ‘Government ‘paid for good news stories’ over Ireland 2040 plan’, The Times, Ireland edition
22nd February 2018
Oireachtas Joint Comittee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection, second session
Officials from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and government CIO Barry Lowry appeared before the committee today. You can watch the session here.
✎ ‘Over 450 have welfare suspended for not registering for public services card’, Irish Times
✎ ”If everything’s fine, why’s it being investigated?’ – Social Protection peppered with tough questions over PSC’, The Journal
20th February 2018
The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, attended an appointment to register for a PSC at an Intreo centre in his local town in the first week of January. It was there that he was informed that he would not be permitted to obtain a PSC without a valid, in-date passport.
As is the case with many Venezuelan emigrants around the world currently, he has been living with an expired passport due to a printing shortage in his country. Thousands have been left in a situation that has put their visas at risk and has prevented them from travelling.
✎ ”’I felt totally lost’: Department in u-turn over decision to deny Venezuelan man a Public Services Card’, The Journal
8th February 2018
Oireachtas Joint Comittee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection, first session
Liam Herrick and Maeve O’Rourke of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and Simon McGarr of McGarr Solicitors appeared before the committee today. You can watch the session here. There’s a transcript here.
✎‘Government responds after claims Public Services Card breaches EU privacy laws’, Evening Herald
✎ ‘Rights group to outline ‘grave concerns’ over public services card’, Irish Times
✎‘Lawyer: Personal Services Cards may pave way for compensation claims’, Irish Examiner
✎ ”We are trying to sound the alarm’ – committee hears Public Services Card is a legal ticking time bomb’, The Journal
‘The Public Services Card: Mandatory, without a mandate’, submission by Simon McGarr, McGarr Solicitors (PDF, 174K)
‘ICCL Submission to Oireachtas on Public Services Card’ (PDF, 447K)
LISTEN BACK: @daraghobrien told @ciarakellydoc why @ICCLtweet are right to be concerned by the Public Services Card. @SeanDefoe also reports from the Dáil on the ICCL's submission https://t.co/9pOeBMJ6Dp
— Lunchtime Live (@LunchtimeLiveNT) February 8, 2018
31st January 2018
The government position is that this is purely voluntary, and that companies will still be prohibited from demanding a PSC as proof of identity. But the reality is that the PSC will become a de facto ID card for private services unless this is stopped. Individuals can’t be expected to know that they have a right not to give the PSC for identity if legislation makes this normal and routine.
The Bill is coming back before the Dáil shortly. Let your TD know that it’s unacceptable that private businesses will be able to use the PSC for ID. To find your local TDs and their contact details, use the excellent WhoIsMyTD.com. You can use the following text if you wish:
✎ ‘Tell your TD to stop the PSC becoming a private sector ID card’, Digital Rights Ireland
24th January 2018Special deleted tweet update.
Apologies, here is the answer I got from @welfare_ie as to whether they collect biometric data.
It has been brought to my attention that, for reasons unknown, it has since been deleted.
My reaction was: “What”.#psc pic.twitter.com/SKspHUEBzS
— Rossa Mac Mathúna (@rossamcmahon) January 24, 2018
22nd January 2018
The Minister with responsibility for Mental Health has said he wants to see the public services card linked to social media accounts in order to verify the identification of users.
Jim Daly said he has asked the European Commission to explore this possibility.
Speaking on RTE’s Claire Byrne Live, he said he believes “child protection trumps data protection”.
✎ ‘Call for PSC to be linked to social media account’, RTE
21st January 2018
A SECOND PERSON has spoken of being refused a Public Services Card (PSC) due to the fact that they are adopted.
The 50-year-old woman from the midlands attended, as requested, an appointment to register for a PSC at an Intreo centre in her nearest town in mid December.
✎ ‘”It is the worst form of humiliation” – Woman denied Public Services Card due to adopted status’, The Journal
11th January 2018
Yet bizarrely, in this strange dance of inversion, even though you need a PSC to get a passport or apply for citizenship, and can use a passport to get a PSC, the PSC is not deemed adequate proof of identification to get a driving permit or licence.
And it’s not a national ID card, but it kind of is, as it is now included as acceptable personal ID on the form to collect a package from An Post.
✎ ‘Wary of the Public Services Card? You have good reason to be’, Irish Times
6th November 2017
AN IRISH MAN has been denied a Public Services Card (PSC) because he’s adopted and his birth certificate isn’t considered sufficient proof of identity.
TheJournal.ie has learned that the PSC expansion process is being used by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to confirm and update its own birth/adoption database with data from the General Register Office, responsibility for which was recently transferred to DEASP from the Department of Health.
✎ ”I’ve had to tell more people in the last few months than in my entire life’ – Man denied Public Services Card because he’s adopted’, The Journal
4th November 2017
QUERIES AND COMPLAINTS to two bodies intimately entwined with the expansion of the Public Services Card (PSC) show that misinformation, anger, and issues with the basic work of that process are par for the course among Irish citizens.
In documents received by TheJournal.ie under Freedom of Information, it’s revealed that the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and, particularly, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) have been inundated with criticism and plain bafflement as to how the expansion is set to work.
✎ ”If you post one out I’ll cut it up and send it back’: The PSC has people both enraged and deeply confused’, The Journal
23rd October 2017
The document notes that in June there was “a significant amount of media coverage surrounding the PSC, much of it negative and surrounding whether the card was a ‘national ID card’”.
“This coverage (albeit negative) helped to increase awareness of the PSC, however it failed to mention the benefits of the PSC. The message around the PSC/MyGovID would need to address the benefits whilst also addressing the concerns in media regarding the PSC as a national ID card.”
✎ ‘Government plans €200,000 public services card campaign’, Irish Times
20th October 2017
The statement added that in the last week, the Data Protection Commissioner’s office had signalled its intention to the department to use its investigation powers under section 10 of the Irish Data Protection Acts “to examine details of the above matters further with a view to establishing whether there is full compliance with the requirements of the Acts”.
✎ ‘Data watchdog to open investigation into public services card’, Irish Times
18th October 2017
Queries and complaints from the public, released under Freedom of Information, to two of the main departments involved in the card’s projected expansion (the Department of Foreign Affairs [DFA] and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform [DPER]) suggest that the government’s communication regarding the card has been less than stellar.
✎ ‘Stopped welfare payments and getting a passport abroad – the Irish haven’t been shy complaining about the PSC’, The Journal
16th October 2017
The possibility that the State’s public services card (PSC) might eventually become a national identity card was discussed by the then Fianna Fáil-led government in 2004 and 2005, official government documents reveal.
Current Government Ministers have insisted the card, which has been issued since 2011 to individuals seeking State services such as welfare payments, was not and never would become a national identity card.
✎‘Ministers in 2004 saw potential of public services card as ‘national ID’’, Irish Times
Solicitor Rossa McMahon said: “I am pleased to confirm that the chief appeals officer has allowed my client’s appeal against the cancellation of her non-contributory pension. Her pension will now be restored and she will be paid the arrears which have been withheld from her since January 22nd, 2016. I am instructed that my client does not intend to register for a public services card.”
✎ ‘Woman’s pension to be restored in public services card row’, Irish Times
A 2016 report by the government’s chief information officer said that Caranua, a state agency that makes payments for health, housing and educational needs of abuse victims, was a “suitable” service through which to introduce the controversial identity card.
✎ ‘Abuse payments ‘an opportunity’to introduce ID cards by stealth’, The Times Ireland Edition
11th October 2017
Dr Fisher said Ireland had to “look into the future” with such a scheme, particularly where there was a biometric database with information that would identify someone for the rest of their lives.
He said the Aadhaar identity number introduced in India in 2009 and now held by about 1.3 billion people, also had a legislative basis that was “questionable” and there were some “striking parallels” with the Irish scheme.
Aadhaar began as a requirement to access basic benefits, including social welfare benefits, but then began to increase in scope almost constantly, he said.
✎ ‘‘Massive privacy issues’ in State’s public services card scheme’, Irish Times
28th September 2017
The common pattern in these cases is that fundamental rights are viewed as inconvenient obstacles. This is a paternalistic view, in which the institution knows best and public concern can be disregarded. However, this approach merely stores up problems for the future. There are lessons for Ireland from the UK, where many of these issues have already been played out.
✎ ‘Ireland must learn from UK data protection and ID disasters’, Irish Times
26th September 2017
Ms Shortall said serious concerns had been raised by the Data Protection Commissioner who was waiting for responses from the Government.
“The public has still not seen those responses,’’ she added. “If the system is secure, and if it is properly based, then why is there such a delay in providing those responses ?’’
She asked whether the Government was “putting the cart before the horse” by not having the legislation passed to reassure people.
✎ ‘Donohoe denies public lack confidence in public services card’, Irish Times
21st September 2017
What we do know is that the vast majority of politicians still do not understand, in depth or breadth, the data protection and privacy issues that lie at the heart of a functional, transparent democracy.
✎ ‘Public Services Card reveals State ignorance of data privacy issues’, Irish Times
9th September 2017
Dermot Casey, a former chief technology officer of Storyful, said that if the Daon system was used to store the data and carry out the facial matching then the Government “appears to have purchased a biometric database system which can be extended to include voice, fingerprint and iris identification at a moment’s notice”.
✎ ‘Firms involved in biometric database in India contracted by Irish government’, Irish Times
7th September 2017
The bottom line is that the State cannot simply introduce measures such as the public services card which process the personal data of the entire population without demonstrating that it is necessary to meet a recognised public interest objective, and that it is a necessary and proportionate measure when all the facts are taken into account.
There is a growing list of measures that have been overturned by the European courts on privacy grounds including the retention of bulk telecommunications data, the US Safe Harbour programme and the exchange of air passenger details with Canada.
Unless the State can demonstrate that all aspects of the public services card are justified under EU law it is inevitable that it will join this list.
✎ ‘State must justify introduction of public services card’, Irish Times
5th September 2017
The Data Protection Commissioner told the head of the Department of Social Protection last year that there was a risk the public services card (PSC) was expanding in scope and that this would turn it into “a form of national ID card”.
✎ ‘Commissioner feared potential for ‘form of national ID card’, Irish Times
The Journal hosted a discussion about the Public Services Card with guests Noel Whelan and Simon McGarr representing Digital Rights Ireland.
Regina Doherty’s officials have no formal research to back up their insistence the public actually want to use the Public Services Card (PSC) as an identity card.
Officials at the Department of Social Protection said “customer opinion” was behind new legislation, which will significantly relax restrictions on the use of the card and promote its use as an ID card.
The department said it received the feedback from face-to-face meetings between its staff and customers, rather than through any formal survey or research.
✎ ‘Doherty’s officials can’t back up their claim that the public want to use PSCs as ID cards’, Irish Independent
4th September 2017
But there is a core principle at stake here. The authority of every state rests ultimately on its position as the sole repository of power, In countries where democracy and the rule of law apply, that power is held in check by courts and parliament. Therefore, when this State wields coercive power – including the denial of services or travel documents – it has a particular obligation to show clearly and conclusively that its actions are legally robust and absolutely necessary. In this instance, that requirement has yet to be met.
✎ ‘Public Services Card: More than semantics at play’, Irish Times
3rd September 2017
If the Government doesn’t trust its own people, why should it expect any trust in return? Suddenly demanding that everybody proves who they are upsets that mutual trust. Now we’re not innocent until proven guilty. We’re guilty until proven innocent by the production of the right paperwork. Free people should be allowed to go about their business without suspicion that we’re up to no good.
✎ ‘Carrying papers to prove who we are isn’t part of who we are’, Irish Independent
2nd September 2017
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said the Government will “review” how its attempts to force the public services card into widespread use resulted in a damaging public backlash after an Independent minister said the Coalition must listen to the people’s concerns
✎ ‘Finance Minister to ‘review’ public services card after backlash’, Irish Examiner
According to senior Government ministers the card allows people to “prove that they are who they say they are” allowing the State to protect itself against welfare fraud (although there are apparently only 78 cases “in the system”). It has also emerged that within the Public Services Card framework detailed personal data about the entire Irish population may be shared widely amongst more than 100 public sector bodies for reasons which are even less clear.
The bottom line is that if processing cannot be proven to be necessary for the attainment of a genuine public interest objective, it can never be lawful
✎ ‘Necessity knows no law’, Fred Logue
The Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty appeared on Sarah McInerney’s programme on Newstalk this morning. She repeated the assertions that she and her department did not collect biometric data, as she and her department had previously claimed in a statement and on Twitter. Sarah McInerney read out the legal definition of biometric data to the minister and something that would have been dismissed by Jay and Lynn as too outlandish for an episode of Yes Minister unfolded.
🔊 ‘Regina Doherty on Between The Lines With Sarah McInerney’, Newstalk
In response to McIntyre’s well-argued points, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other senior ministers have insisted that it is not a national ID card because gardaí and private bodies are prohibited from asking to see it. They have argued that the 2005 Act gives the government a legislative basis to expand the uses of the card.
But this defence has been debunked as the department is planning to remove this safeguard. Under the Social Welfare Bill 2017 gardaí and any private firm will be able to use the PSC as proof of identity, as McIntyre also pointed out.
But amid all the praise heaped upon the card from government circles, it is worth remembering the criticisms from other offices of state as to its uses, its cost and its dangers.
✎ ‘DANIEL MCCONNELL: Public Services Card another mess of the Government’s own making’, Irish Examiner
Farmers will not need a Public Services Card (PSC) to access their farm payments through the Department of Agriculture’s website agfood.ie, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed says.
He told the Irish Independent that its services are available through agfood.ie and there is no requirement for a PSC on its portal.
Mr Creed said the services will continue to be available on agfood.ie without a PSC.
It comes after a week of uncertainty around whether farmers would need PSCs and calls from farming organisations for clarity on the matter.
✎ ‘No need for PSC to get farm payments – Creed’, Irish Independent
1st September 2017
While Government Ministers have repeatedly insisted that the public services card will not be a national identity card, new legislation proposes removing restrictions on its use so that individuals may use it more widely as ID.
✎ ‘Social welfare Bill promotes use of public services card as ID’, Irish Times
But the investigation by the commissioner found the processing of the car registration data by DPER and the Department of Social Protection was “irrelevant and excessive”.
The commissioner said in July it had been informed the practice of the Department of Transport sending “unnecessary data” to DPER for the purposes of maintaining the SCV system “has now ceased . . . confirming that it was not necessary in the first place”.
✎ ‘Why were my car registration details in a database used by welfare?’, Irish Times
A prescient tweet was posted by Simon McGarr on the evening of the 31st.
If I may, I am quite proud of this thread. And with things out of control, I predict that we will see an effort to deny 'this is news' next. https://t.co/oyqkhTn5n2
— Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) August 31, 2017
Less than twelve hours later Noel Whelan attempted to dismiss the story as ‘silly season nonsense’. Whelan took a similar line to the small and medium businesses representative association ISME in complaining about the Data Protection Commissioner, who is the relevant independent regulator, attempting to regulate. Both Whelan and ISME failed to mention the DPC’s description of repeated attempts to seek further clarity from the Department of Social Protection about the scheme, which had until now been ignored.
✎ ‘Noel Whelan: Public services card row is silly season nonsense’, Irish Times
✎ ‘We’ll stick to the terrace, not the grandstand’, ISME blog
31st August 2017
Leo Varadkar said he will respond to the concerns of the Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, who issued a statement last night saying the issue of transparency needs to be addressed in relation to the card.
✎ ‘Taoiseach warns of consequences over misuse of personal data’, RTE
At least 120 individual State bodies can potentially get access to the information on the controversial Public Services Cards (PSCs), more than double the number indicated by Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea clashed with the Government over alleged bonus payments of €5 for every PSC issued by Social Protection officials.
✎ ‘Revealed: How 120 State bodies could access your data on cards’, Irish Independent
30th August 2017
The Department of Social Protection has been told by the State’s data protection watchdog to outline how social welfare legislation provides a “robust legal basis” for the public services project.
✎ ‘Data Protection Commissioner seeks explanation for legal basis of public services card’, Irish Times
The Government has been accused of ramping up the rollout of Public Service Cards (PSCs) because they already have an order for three million cards to be produced by the end of the year.
The card is now mandatory to access many government payments and services, with many seeing it as a national identity card by another name being introduced in a ‘Big Brother’ way by an overreaching government.
✎ ‘Government accused of rolling out Public Service Cards because they ordered millions’, Irish Mirror
1. Is it still the Government’s position that the Public Service Card is not mandatory, and that possession of, and application for, the Public Service Card is voluntary
2. Is it the Government’s position that existing primary forms of identification verification – passport, driving licence etc. – can continue to be used to access all state services and payments? And, if so, will this be communicated to all relevant State agencies?
3. Arising from questions 1 and 2 above, what is the status of the Government Decision, S180/20/10/1789 of 2013 which describes the Public Service Card as the State’s “standard identity verification scheme”?
4. What is the legal status of the set of objectives set out in the Government’s e-Government Strategy 2017-2020, particularly those objectives set out in Annex B to that strategy, which propose to make the Public Service Card the primary identification verification system for a wide range of essential state service?
5. What is the Government’s understanding of the distinction between a “mandatory system” and a “standard identity verification system” which applies to essential services?
✎‘Key Questions on Public Service Cards still Unanswered’, Irish Council for Civil Liberties
Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said up to 50 public bodies have access to the data identity set stored on Public Services Cards, according to legislation passed in 2013.
Ms Doherty said there are no plans to store any more information on Public Services Cards in the future.
✎ ‘Up to 50 public bodies can access Public Services Cards data – Doherty’, RTE
🔊 TJ McIntyre and Joan Burton on Sean O’Rourke, RTE
The Data Protection Commissioner has said there is a “pressing need for updated, clearer and more detailed information” to be communicated to the public regarding the card. In a statement she also said “the implementation of large scale government projects without specific legislative underpinning . . . poses challenges in terms of the transparency to the public. . .”
✎ ‘‘No plans’ to increase information held on public services card– Minister’, Irish Times
‘Mandatory but not compulsory”. This ill-judged hair-splitting seems likely to stick to Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty in the same way that “an Irish solution to an Irish problem” and “on mature recollection” did to politicians before her.
✎ ‘Until the Government is straight about PSCs, the public has no reason to trust it’, Irish Independent
Who will have access to the personal data contained on the cards and being stored by the Government?
Neither the Departments of Public Expenditure (DPER) nor Social Protection specified exactly who will have access to the data.
Both pointed to 2005 legislation that lists more than 100 organisations, including government departments, the Revenue, hospitals, An Post and the Companies Registration Office among many others.
DPER said the information is restricted to organisations that have the legal right to access it. But it said that Social Protection would have to be contacted to see which agencies have been allowed access to date. Last night, that department did not specify whether this had taken place.
✎ ‘Explainer: The latest you need to know about the controversial Public Services Card’, Irish Independent
29th August 2017
The Department of Social Protection seems as fond of splitting hairs as the minister. They’ve never used ‘facial image scanning cameras’ (whatever those are) but they have paid for ‘Facial Image Matching Software’ software.
DSP awarded a tender in 2012 to @3m, at a value of €212883, for "Supply of Facial Image Matching Software". https://t.co/FnxXXfQcqk
— 0x13b (@0x13b) August 29, 2017
Digital Rights Ireland posted a detailed piece showing the flaws they see in the legislative basis the Department of Social Protection is using.
The Department of Social Protection feels that one particular section of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) justifies its policy. However, from our investigations, this section has a very different and important purpose but has basically nothing to do with the Public Services Card and does not in fact refer to the Public Services Card at all.
At the outset, it has to be said that this law in relation to the Public Services Card and the related “Public Services Identity” is spread out over a number of different Acts. This makes the legislative framework difficult to understand.
✎ ‘Is the Public Services Card Mandatory to access state services?’, Digital Rights Ireland
During the day on Twitter the minister stated five times that the department does not collect biometric data.
🔊 Dr Eoin O’Dell, Assistant Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin spoke to Mary Wilson this evening on Drivetime.
Speaking on High Noon this afternoon, Dr O’Dell argued: “What the Minister said was that it wasn’t mandatory but it was compulsory, or perhaps the other way – which I think is an extraordinary piece of Kafkaesque, almost George W Bush-esque mangling of language.
✎ ‘Minister accused of ‘mangling language’ with comments on Public Services Card’, Newstalk
Minister for Health Simon Harris has said people have nothing to fear from the public services card and that it exists merely to ensure people can claim their entitlements from the State.
The card has come in for scrutiny from privacy experts, civil rights groups and from advocates for the rights of older people after The Irish Times reported last week that a woman in her 70s had had her State pension cut off because she refused to register for the card.
✎ ‘Simon Harris: ‘nothing to fear’ from public services card’, Irish Times
Morning Ireland could not find a government minister to come on air and discuss the Public Services Card this morning. They said this was the second occasion on which they had attempted to get Pat Breen, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection to discuss the card.
Mr McGarr said the PSC contains a great deal of information.
He added that irrevocable biometric information, such as a facial scan, should not be used as an ID database.
✎ ‘Call for debate on ID cards amid PSC controversy’, RTE
🔊 Interviews with people whose benefits have been withdrawn for refusing a Public Services Card and Simon McGarr on Morning Ireland
What does the Government say?
There was confusion when Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the card was “not compulsory”, but it was mandatory for accessing services – such as pensions – provided by her department.
The Department of Public Expenditure oversees the eGovernment Strategy that includes the rollout of the cards.
✎ ‘Creed refuses to rule out need for ID cards for farmers’, Irish Independent
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said all passport applicants would need to have the card in 12 months. But opposition TDs have queried the legality of it being mandatory.
The confusion follows the case of a woman in her 70s who had her pension cut after refusing to register for a card. She is owed €13,000 after being refused payments over 18 months.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) said it was still awaiting clarity from the Government about confusion over the rules and the changed circumstances for using the card. Spokesman Liam Herrick said the group had written to Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, whose department is overseeing the use of the card for services online.
✎ ‘Public services card to be needed for passport applications’, Irish Examiner
28th August 2017
The Irish Examiner reported at the weekend that the Department had made €800,000 in savings through payments ceased or suspended after recipients failed to engage with the registration process for a card.
The department says it does not know why people do not register but says: “It is not unreasonable to suggest that in some cases this represents individuals engaged in identity fraud.”
✎ ‘Department of Social Protection makes €800k savings on Public Service Card’, Irish Examiner
26th August 2017
More academic experts add their signatures to the letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality.
We note that the Department of Social Protection is now writing to social welfare recipients stating:
“Registration for the Public Services Card is now a legal requirement for people in receipt of social welfare payments (including Child Benefit) or free travel entitlements.”
We are not aware of any such legal requirement.
✎ ‘Letter regarding the Public Services Card’, IT Law in Ireland (Dr. TJ McIntyre)
By July 2016 over 2 million #psc cards had issued. I invite you to consider the level of fraud detected & the prosecution rate. pic.twitter.com/ue3vMHXQpJ
— Rossa Mac Mathúna (@rossamcmahon) August 26, 2017
So according to the minister, the card is compulsory but not mandatory. This is like saying one is soaking but not wet. Age Action is understandably angry, as are civil liberty groups about the discourteous and heavy-handed way people are being treated.
Insistence that people validate their identity in order to receive a service from the State with a card, before it has been nationally rolled out, is Big Brother-like.
There may well be merit in such a card being issued, but it should not be done by the back door.
✎ ‘Doherty’s ambiguity is about as clear as mud’, Irish Independent
A group of legal academics specialising in privacy and data protection law have said they are “not aware” of any legal requirement for people in receipt of social welfare payments to register for the public services card (PSC).
Eleven experts have written to Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan expressing concern about the Government’s card project after it emerged that a woman in her 70s had her State pension cut off because she refused to register for a card.
✎ ‘Privacy law experts write to Minister for Justice over public services cards’, Irish Times
The department is under fire for cutting off the pension of a woman in her 70s who refused to take part in a registration process for the card which is not compulsory under law. But the department has taken the same stance in other cases, resulting in “savings” of €802,000 to the end of July last year.
Minister Regina Doherty drew criticism when she admitted yesterday that public service cards were in effect compulsory even though not required by law.
✎ Welfare recipients see benefits cut off in row over mandatory cards, Irish Examiner
Pressure increased on the Government on Friday over the roll-out of the public services card after Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty confirmed it was “mandatory” for anyone claiming a welfare benefit to have one.
A civil liberties group and academic lawyers have written to the Government calling for a public debate on whether the policy amounts to the introduction of a national identity card by stealth.
✎ ‘Pressure mounts on Government over public services card’, Irish Times
For some reason the Road Safety Authority decided to get involved.
THE HEAD OF the Road Safety Authority (RSA) has said the controversial Public Services Card, which is the only ID accepted for the driver theory test, will help reduce the number of fraudulent licence applications.
✎ ‘RSA says Public Services Card will help crack down on fraudulent driving licences’, The Journal
A cursory examination of the Road Safety Authority’s treatment of personal data appeared to show the US company it contracts out the operation of the Driver Theory Test to moving biometric data to the US without consent (this tweet is the first in a thread exploring this.)
So, the Driver Theory Test is run under contract for the RSA by a US firm. https://t.co/CQgpkVfAhu pic.twitter.com/GC3TQdaFE3
— Simon McGarr (@Tupp_Ed) August 26, 2017
25th August 2017
Shortly after 5.30pm on a Friday evening the Department of Social Protection issued a statement on the Public Services Card.
✎ Statement on Public Services Card – 25th August 2017, DSP Press Office
We have strongly conveyed our views on numerous occasions to the Department of Social Protection and in a number of other fora that there is a pressing need for updated, clearer and more detailed information to be communicated to the public and services users regarding the mandatory use of the PPSN and PSC for the provision of public services
The office of the Data Protection Commissioner issued a statement emphasising the fact that the the Department of Social Protection had been repeatedly told they were doing it wrong. Bear in mind the first Public Services Card was issued in 2011.
✎ DPC statement on Public Services Card
ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said he has written to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe outlining his concerns.
Mr Herrick said: “There is a material difference between a voluntary card and mandatory card, which we have never had.”
He said a wide range of people are being contacted persistently by the Department of Social Protection and are being advised they have to apply for the card.
✎ ‘ICCL in call for clarity over Public Services Card’, RTE
Regina Doherty claimed the card is not compulsory as “nobody is required by law” to have one.
She confirmed however that government departments will refuse to provide citizens with the basic public services they are entitled to if they refuse to sign up.
✎ ‘Minister says Public Services Card “mandatory” but not “compulsory”‘, Newstalk
Using a public services card is now mandatory to access services from the Department of Social Protection and other Government departments will also make it mandatory, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said.
Ms Doherty was speaking on Friday following criticism of a policy requiring people to register for the card, after a woman in her 70s had her State pension cut off by the department.
✎ ‘Regina Doherty says public services card now mandatory for welfare’, Irish Times
So I see over 2 million people just got a mandatory national ID card by stealth, and not a shot fired nor law passed https://t.co/UOnCQGVafr
— Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) August 25, 2017
There we have it: @ReginaDo has said on @NewstalkFM the public services card is 'mandatory' for accessing services from her department.
— Elaine Edwards (@ElaineEdwardsIT) August 25, 2017
Almost three million cards have been issued to date, leading to criticism from civil liberties groups that it amounts to the introduction of national identity cards by the back door. Because of a catch-22 approach being taken by the Department of Social Protection, it is hard to disagree with that assessment. Citizens are required to satisfy the minister as to their identity to qualify for payments. To receive their entitlements, however, officials demand a public services card as proof of identity.
✎ ‘Public services card: Beware mission creep’, Irish Times
24th August 2017
“I’m making this decision reluctantly. It’s not a decision I agree with or am in favour of. Like where is this information going? How will my son’s data be used, or abused?” Carol adds. “They say it’s not compulsory, well I intend to ask them how it isn’t.”
✎ ”I don’t see my child as a beggar’: Mother questions why son with Down Syndrome has to get a PSC’, The Journal
23rd August 2017
Executive director of the independent human rights watchdog, Liam Herrick, said on Wednesday the organisation had been in touch with the Data Protection Commissioner and also planned to write to the Minister for Social Protection.
On Twitter Mr Herrick said the organisation was getting a “large number of queries” on the public services card “all the time”.
✎ ‘Watchdog to write to Government over public services card’, Irish Times
The Government has been forced to admit there is confusion over the implementation of the public services card … Minister Michael Ring says the Department should pay her the €13,000 and says different sections of the public service are implementing the rules around the card differently.
✎ ‘Woman, 70s, denied pension payments after refusing to sign up for public services card’, Irish Examiner
🔊 Elaine Edwards on Kildare FM
🔊 Elaine Edwards on Cork’s 96FM
The story of the woman denied her pension because she refused to add herself to the identity register was discussed on Newstalk Breakfast and listeners were polled on Twitter. 44% expressed concern about the card.
Are you concerned that public service cards are a means of introducing a national ID card? #BKNT
— Newstalk Breakfast (@BreakfastNT) August 23, 2017
exactly. in theory, I don't have much of an issue with ID cards. but stealth introduction by the permanent government is very concerning
— Ciarán Mc Mahon (@CJAMcMahon) August 23, 2017
The Government or the State does not have a particularly good track record in operating large-scale databases, in protecting them from mistake and from abuse.
🔊 Rossa McMahon on Limerick’s Live95FM
So, what we have here is a national ID card system which has never been debated by the Oireachtas, isn’t based on any primary legislation and has been introduced (where there is any legal justification for it cited at all) by wilfully forcing a new interpretation onto old legislation.
✎ ‘The Public Services Card- An ID database and ID card’, Simon McGarr, McGarr Solicitors
22nd August 2017
We’ve moved into an area where we actually have brought in an ID card now. That’s something that civil libertarians have been saying for some time in Ireland, and that’s been recognised by the Department of Social Welfare itself in the proposed 2017 social welfare bill. They say that it should now be used for ID purposes by other bodies.
🔊 Simon McGarr on Drivetime. Item starts at 2 hours 21 minutes.
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.
✎ ‘End The Wordplay’, Privacy Kit
✎ ‘Cutting woman’s pension over card ‘outrageous,’ says Age Action‘, Irish Times
This is crazy. The government has basically brought in a national ID card without any conversation about it. https://t.co/4A4ahcuGZ3
— Christine Bohan (@ChristineBohan) August 22, 2017
Outrageous => Woman’s pension cut after she refuses to get public services card
— Rossa Mac Mathúna (@rossamcmahon) August 22, 2017
A woman in her 70s has not been paid her State pension for 18 months because she refused to register for a public services card.
As a result, she is owed some €13,000.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, told The Irish Times she felt “bullied” following several letters from the Department of Social Protection inviting her to register.
✎ ‘Woman’s pension cut after she refuses to get public services card’, Irish Times
7th August 2017
National identity cards are an emotive topic. In the UK, the ID card debate raged for years before and after the authorities there passed a law in 2006 to introduce them. Five years later, a change of government saw the law being repealed as a result of widespread public concerns. The Irish government seems to be adopting a different approach. It is introducing ID cards for its population while denying that it is doing so, perhaps in an attempt to dodge the heated arguments that raged in the UK.
✎ ‘Ireland planning to introduce national identity cards by stealth, with no debate and unclear privacy safeguards’, Glyn Moody , Privacy News International
26th May 2017
TL;DR: The Irish state is building a national identity register with no discussion or debate. Whether this register is being created by accident or design, the lack of debate is alarming. The justifications for doing so are opaque and vague, where justifications can be found at all. This project is proceeding right now, and there is a financial incentive for elements of it to be done as quickly as possible, reducing further the possibility of any discussion.
✎ ‘The Identity Card That Most Assuredly Isn’t An Identity Card’, Privacy Kit
22nd May 2017
Mr McDowell said he believed ID cards “alter the citizen’s relationship with the State because in the end it will become more and more mandatory to have it and carry it and all the rest of it”.
Liam Herrick, executive director of the ICC, said that if the Government wished to introduce mandatory national ID cards, “they should propose such a measure through primary legislation and facilitate a national debate on such a measure”.
✎ ‘Ex-justice minister Michael McDowell ‘opposed national ID card’’, Irish Times
✎ ‘State faces €60m bill for public services cards by end of year’, Irish Times
TJ McIntyre, a UCD law lecturer and chairman of the civil liberties group Digital Rights Ireland, said he was concerned at the plans.
“It appears to be a policy of introducing a national ID card by stealth, in a way which appears to be illegal,” he said.
✎ ‘Privacy campaigners concerned over National ID card by stealth’, Irish Times
8th December 2016
✎ ‘Government continues data-sharing projects despite EU ruling’, Irish Times
The publication of this piece by Elaine Edwards prompted the CIO of the HSE, Richard Corbridge and the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Robert Watt to write to the Irish Times and disagree.
✎ ‘The HSE, privacy and data-sharing projects’
✎ ‘Sharing data and the rights of citizens’
16th May 2016
The Data Protection Commissioner’s office told the HSE in discussions on the health identifiers four years ago it believed the systems in place in the health service at that time were “deficient regarding privacy”.
‘Health identifiers framework to be in place by end of the year’, Irish Times
24th November 2015
The Government is not compliant with a recent significant ruling by Europe’s top court that affects the sharing of citizens’ personal data between departments and agencies, Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy has claimed.
✎ ‘Government ‘not compliant’ in sharing citizen data – TD’, Irish Times
4th July 2004
One initiative that will be looked at is the introduction of a “standardised framework” for a Public Service Card (PSC) which will bring existing cards under “a single branded scheme, reducing the need for public service customers to carry multiple cards”.
‘All-in-one Public Service Card proposed’, Irish Independent