Public Service Cards In Breach Of Data Legislation

The Government has been given just 21 days to stop misusing Public Services Cards and the Data Protection Commission (DPC) are demanding that data held on more than 3.2 million such cards be now deleted within 21 days.

Public Services Cards were first introduced as a pilot scheme in 2011, primarily as a means of preventing social welfare fraud. Initially, it was to be an identification card of sorts, containing simply the personal details of the holder e.g. their name, photo, PPS Number etc, that could be presented by individuals identifying themselves when claiming social welfare benefits.

However, to many including Digital Rights Ireland; the Irish Council for Civil Liberties; the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Age Action, this same introduction was seen as an attempt to introduce a National ID card by stealth.

Some cynics, distrustful of current government sincerity or integrity, suggested, (tongue in cheek), that PPS Numbers should be tattooed on peoples left arms, latter the method of identification used to identify inmates in German concentration camps, like Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland.

Public Services Cards went on to grant not just access to Social Welfare Services but access to Child Benefit and Treatment Benefits; first time adult passport applicants within the State; citizenship applications; driver theory test applications and access to personal online public services, e.g. Social Welfare and Revenue services, via MyGovId.

In recent years the Irish populace, particularly the elderly, were being persistently contacted by the Department of Social Protection, latter who were insisting that Public Services Cards were mandatory. The Minister for Social Welfare, Regina Doherty, stated back in 2017, that this PSC card was, quote; “mandatory but not compulsory” and yet “no more compulsory than having a driving license”, after a woman in her 70’s revealed she had not received her pension for 18 months, because she had refused to register for the card.

The department will now have six weeks in total to submit new plans to the Data Protection Commission (DPC), (latter the national independent authority responsible for upholding the fundamental right of the individual within the EU to have their personal data protected), outlining how it will bring this Public Services Card scheme into full compliance with current existing data protection legislation.

The amount of taxpayers money that has been wasted by this government on this project is estimated at €54.6 million; with some €9.5 million being incurred so far this year and card production alone costing €20.9 million according to the Irish Times newspaper.


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