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Woman applying for PSC asked for partner's name, date of birth, and how long they'd been living together

Such questions appear to go beyond the remit of what can be asked of a person registering for the controversial Public Services Card.

psc Source: The Public Services Card

A WOMAN WHO applied for a Public Services Card in recent weeks was asked for information surplus to what the State says should be requested upon registration.

The woman in question, aged in her 30s, had chosen to apply for the card voluntarily with a view to applying for her driving licence.

The controversial card is to become a pre-requisite for applying for a licence from 9 April this year. It has been a requirement for applying for a theory test since May of 2017.

“I applied as it seems to make sense to get it,” she told TheJournal.ie, adding that she doesn’t “really see what the point of it (the card) is”.

Towards the beginning of the woman’s 20-minute interview, which took place at an Intreo centre in the east of the country, she was asked what her marital status is.

Upon informing the registrar, who the woman described as being ‘quite efficient’, that she is cohabiting with her partner, the official proceeded to ask her what his name and date of birth are, and how long they had been living together.

“I was a bit taken aback to be honest, and I couldn’t actually think of the date straight away, I had to go looking for it,” the woman said, adding that the significance of what she’d been asked for only occurred to her later when discussing the appointment with colleagues.

Registration

When registering for a PSC, a person is satisfying the government’s own SAFE2 (Standard Authentication Framework Environment) identification standard.

SAFE2 is the reason why the government now considers a passport or driving licence insufficient forms of ID for applying for certain state services, as they do not satisfy that standard.

However, the data that can be collected under SAFE2 authentication, as per the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protecton’s (DEASP) own Comprehensive Guide to the SAFE Registration and the Public Services Card, is limited to a person’s:

PPS Number, surname, forename, date of birth, place of birth, sex, all former surnames, all former surnames of their mother, address, nationality, photograph, signature, date of death (where relevant), and certificate of Death (where relevant).

Where asking for a person’s partner’s name, date of birth, and time spent in co-habitation fits into the authentication process is far from clear.

deasp Source: DEASP

When queried as to the apparent anomaly, a spokesperson for DEASP said:

The department cannot comment on individual cases. If the person contacts us directly, we will be happy to follow up on this further.

Two other provisos exist for SAFE2 registration – ‘any other information as may be required for authentication purposes that is uniquely linked to or is capable of identifying that person’, and ‘any other information that may be prescribed which, in the opinion of the Minister, is relevant to and necessary for the allocation of a Personal
Public Service Number (PPSN)’.

‘No interest’

Neither of these two situations appear to cover the nature of questioning put to the woman in this scenario however.

“My boyfriend was a bit freaked out about it,” the woman said.

He has very strong feelings about the card, and has no interest in getting one.

The PSC was first introduced in 2012 as a means of authenticating social welfare payments for recipients.

However, in the past year the government has begun a planned expansion of the card as a pre-requisite for other state services, including application for first-time passports and the aforementioned driving theory tests and licences, an expansion which has led to heightened criticism from the data protection and privacy professions here.

One of the many criticisms levelled at the project is that it equates to the introduction of a national ID card ‘by stealth’.

The whole card project is currently subject to an investigation by the Data Protection Commissioner, one which was instigated in the wake of the publication of DEASP’s Comprehensive Guide last October (which itself was only produced after the DPC expressed concerns regarding the card from a data protection and privacy point of view).

That investigation is expected to lead to a final report within the next two to three months.

At present, the card is required for access to all welfare services.

Over three million cards have been issued since the scheme’s inception, according to the government, at a cost of about €60 million.

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