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Public Services Card

Government to continue processing PSC data in defiance of Data Protection Commissioner ruling

The DPC ruled that there was no legal basis for the Government to process data for the card last month.


PERSONAL DATA RELATING to the Public Services Card (PSC) will still be processed by the Government despite the Data Protection Commission (DPC) finding that there is no legal basis for it to do so outside of social welfare payments.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty has also said her Department will publish a DPC report into the card when she has met with Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon to discuss its findings.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that the government will appeal the findings of the report, which was published last month, in court.

The report, which followed a two-year investigation by the DPC, found that there is no legal basis for a person to be required to get PSC for anything other than social welfare payments and benefits.

But despite being ordered by the DPC to stop processing data in areas within 21 days, aside from for social welfare payments, Doherty said her Department would continue to do so.

Asked on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 whether she would stop processing data in other areas in defiance of the DPC’s ruling, the Minister said:

What we’re going to do is to continue acting on the basis of the legislation as it was passed in 2005. Our basis gives a very clear and legal underpinning of what it is that we’re doing.

However, Doherty said she wanted also wanted to meet with Dixon before challenging the matter in court.

“We wrote to the Commission yesterday seeking out the earliest opportunity to meet with the Commission to discuss the findings, and to outline exactly what it is that we find is the legal basis [for the PSC],” she said.

“My legal advice is incredibly strong that we have a clear and unambigous legal basis to do exactly what we intended to do since [the introduction of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act in 2005], and to do what successive governments have done since…

“We believe that we do have legal rights and legislation to underpin exactly what was anticipated.”

Report to be published

Dixon also ordered the Minister to publish the DPC report into the PSC in full within seven days, but Doherty said she would wait to discuss its findings first.

“I absolutely intend to publish the Commission’s report and our response to it,” she said.

“But what I would rather to, rather than prejudice a meeting that I would really like to have with the Commission, I would wait until the Commission responds to me today or tomorrow.”

It follows statements from the Department that the report would not be published, despite Minister Regina Doherty saying 11 days ago that her department would be publishing it “as soon as our consideration of this final report is complete”. 

Dixon has previously said that there is a public interest in publishing the report.

The PSC was first issued by the then Department for Social Protection in 2011, when they obliged individuals seeking access to welfare payments to register for one.

However, the government subsequently expanded the range of services which the card was required for, including obtaining a driver’s licence and a passport, and over 3 million cards have since been created.

When publishing the findings of her report, Dixon said the Department had 21 days to provide an update on how it was implementing the finding that it was no longer lawful to require a PSC for services other than welfare.

Those 21 days expire tomorrow.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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