“In an era where there is legitimate concern about the use, ownership and manipulation of Big Data, it is astonishing that this Government proceeded to collect and hold data on citizens without any legal basis.”

The Social Democrats have called on the Government, in particular Ministers Donohoe and Doherty, to publish the full report of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) and to publish all the advice on which they made the decision to enforce widespread use of the Public Services Card to access public services.

Speaking on behalf of the Party, Councillor Carly Bailey said “the findings of the Data Protection Commissioner on the Public Services Card (PSC) demonstrate yet again a failure of basic governance by this Government.

“We expect our own Government to operate under the rule of law and protect its citizens. Yet, despite continuous warnings by data protection legal experts, civil rights organisations and the raising of the issue many times in the Dáil by Party co-leader Róisín Shortall TD, the Government ploughed ahead with an illegal use of citizens’ data.

“We are glad that the DPC has called a halt to the creeping use of the PSC as a mandatory identity system. There has been no proper public debate on the use of the PSC in such a widespread way, and we still have serious concerns about the level of safeguards in place around the data and penalties for misuse.

“This type of public administration by stealth lacks transparency, threatens people’s rights and is just not acceptable. This fundamentally affects the privacy of every citizen in the State.

“Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty TD., has said that the PSC was ‘not compulsory but mandatory’. We now need to know the basis on which the Government made the decision to enforce the creeping use of the PSC as a requirement for accessing basic public services. It is clear that they were operating outside the rule of law.

“This debacle undermines public confidence in how the State can provide good public services and how the State can protect its citizens.

“In an era where there is legitimate concern about the use, ownership and manipulation of Big Data, it is astonishing that this Government proceeded to collect and hold data on citizens without any legal basis. In particular, that the PSC data was shared by private companies by this Government – for example the private company that provides the Driver Theory Test. We welcome that the DPC has said that Government must delete the data it collected on citizens through the PSC application.

“There are very significant other questions which arise from the DPC findings, notwithstanding that the DPC says other reports and findings are yet to be issued:

  • Does this failure of governance expose the State to compensation claims from those who were denied a public service or had delayed provision of a public service because they didn’t have a PSC?
  • How much has this Government spent on the rollout of the PSC across all the bodies?
  • What alternative measures will the Government propose to access public services without the mandatory use of PSC?”

ENDS

16th August 2019