Dublin, 14 January 2019
The Department of Social Protection has refused to release information regarding the Data Protection Commissioner’s investigation into the Public Services Card, in part because it may “be contrary to the public interest”. The request was brought by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties under freedom of information legislation.
The detailed response from the Department of Social Protection to ICCL’s request relies on Sections 29(1), 30(1), 32 (1)(c), 35 and 37(1) of the Freedom of Information Act. Amongst other issues, these sections include grounds for refusal of a request based on “public interest” or that the “requester concerned would thereby become aware of a significant decision that the body proposes to make”.
ICCL director Liam Herrick said:
“ICCL is calling for full transparency on the legal basis for the public services card because it violates the privacy and data protection rights of people living in Ireland. We have been campaigning against its introduction because it’s unnecessary, costly, and of questionable efficacy – and it targets in particular economically vulnerable people, such as those dependant on social welfare. Further, it is deeply troubling that the government has continued to roll the card out for essential services while a question hangs over its legality.”
ICCL has also learned that the Data Protection Commisison, when it does publish the report, intends to publish only a summary.
Mr Herrick said:
“The Data Protection Commission has an extremely important role in protecting the privacy rights of all those living in Ireland. The fact that the DPC initiated an investigation in October 2017 into the legal basis for the public services card is significant in itself and ICCL would call for full transparency, and indeed urgency, in releasing the entire report to the public as soon as it is ready.”
“We believe that there is no legal basis for the card, given that it violates the principles of necessity and proportionality with regard to privacy rights. If this is the case, the public deserves to know,” he added.
ICCL intends to appeal this decision to the Office of the Information Commissioner. We believe that the public has an immediate right to know what decisions are being taken behind closed doors about our privacy.
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