Dublin, 16 August 2019
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has welcomed the Data Protection Commissioner’s (DPC) long awaited report into the legality of the Public Services Card (PSC). We particularly note and welcome the DPC’s findings that there is no legal basis for demanding the PSC for many of the public services for which it is now mandatory.
Applause for DPC enforcement choices
ICCL welcomes the Data Protection Commissioner’s next steps and enforcement plans, which require an immediate halt to the processing of personal data carried out in connection with the PSC.
Elizabeth Farries, Information Rights programme manager at ICCL, says:
We support the immediacy of the DPC’s enforcement measures. They are appropriate given that the card lacks a legal basis, is unnecessary, and presents serious risks to the highly sensitive personal data it collects.
The DPC findings are a disaster of the government’s own making. For years, ICCL has urged government to cease the roll out of the PSC due to human rights concerns, and pending the conclusions of this very investigation. Nonetheless, they continue to demand biometric information – in the form of the PSC – in exchange for essential services. And they continue to store that information unsafely in a database.
The unresolved biometric question
Not addressed in the DPC press release is this particularly controversial biometric element. The PSC contains a jpeg facial image, from which the Department extracts an analytical model which it then stores on a database vulnerable to attack. Biometric data is a special category of personal data that requires particular safeguards to avoid harm to its owner. Farries notes:
People should not have to trade their biometric data to access essential services to which they are already entitled. Such a requirement is incompatible with domestic and EU law and human rights standards. ICCL has been saying that this is an urgent problem that requires an immediate resolution. We urge the DPC to provide a clear statement on this point.
We welcome confirmation from the Department that they will publish the full report at the DPC’s direction within a period of seven days. Farries comments:
The Minister for Social Protection has previously stated in the Oireachtas that either the Department or the DPC would release the report following this investigation. This moment has arrived, and we look forward to full disclosure from the Department.
Vindication of work of rights groups
Ms Farries concluded, saying:
The DPC findings are a huge vindication of ICCL’s concerted efforts against the roll out of this card over the past two years. It is also a tribute to the small number of rights groups who focused on this issue and to the people who have been willing to forgo their benefits to challenge this illegal system.
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See more on our work on the PSC: https://www.iccl.ie/privacy/public-services-card/