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Thursday 5 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C
The Explainer: Why is there so much controversy over the Public Services Card?
It’s a saga that has been rumbling on for years – but what exactly is it all about?

IN 2011, THE Public Services Card (PSC) was introduced in the form of a pilot scheme for some social welfare recipients.

The idea was simple: Streamline the delivery of multiple services such as social welfare by confirming the user’s identity on a simple card.

But in recent years, it has become nothing but a headache for government. Criticism grew over the use of the card for more services than originally intended, sparking concerns it was quickly becoming a de-facto national ID card backed by a database of citizens’ biometric data, accessible by dozens of agencies.

It has come to a head after the Data Protection Commissioner ruled in a landmark investigation that there was no lawful basis for anyone to be required to get a PSC for anything other than social welfare payments and benefits.

So where did it go wrong with the card? Was this inevitable or could it have been avoided? And why exactly is it so controversial? Joining presenter Sinéad O’Carroll on The Explainer this week are’s reporter Sean Murray, who has been following the controversy closely, and solicitor Simon McGarr, director of Data Compliance Europe and a persistent campaigner for more clarity on the government’s use of the PSC as well as the associated data.

They explore the development of the PSC over the past decade, how the cracks started to appear in the scheme, and why the public should be mindful of how their data is being used.

The Explainer / SoundCloud

Find a full list of where the podcast is available here.

This episode was put together by presenter Sinéad O’Carroll, producer Aoife Barry, assistant producer and technical operator Nicky Ryan, and executive producer Christine Bohan. Design by Palash Somani.

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