The government is stepping back on the public services map

The Ministry of Social Protection has acknowledged that the controversial Public Services Card (PSC) cannot become a compulsory condition for accessing public services.

The move marks a descent for the department and, by extension, the government, which has formally agreed to withdraw an appeal challenging a ruling by the Data Protection Commission.

The ministry has also agreed to make changes to the way it handles personal information and to provide many more details to the public about the data it handles.

Additionally, it has pledged that any data collected during the card registration process that is not deemed essential will either be permanently deleted or irreversibly redacted.

The move means it can continue to process personal data to authenticate someone’s identity and issue them a card that can also be used to access other state services.

However, in doing so, it acknowledges that, while it can compel individuals to have such a card to access its services, other organizations cannot compel individuals to register for the card.

The government-issued card, which contains an individual’s name, photograph, signature and PPS number, was first introduced as a pilot project in 2011 and later rolled out more widely to applicants for welfare.

However, it soon became apparent that other government departments also required the card to be used for those applying for, among other things, driver’s licenses, scholarships, and dental and optical benefits.

A series of campaigners including Digital Rights Ireland, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty, Age Action and privacy experts have opposed the map, which , then social welfare minister Regina Doherty, said it was “mandatory but not”. mandatory”.

No basis in law

A Data Protection Commission report found there was no legal basis for public bodies to insist that people accessing services have the card outside of the Department of Social Care, which could require to access payments.

He also ruled that the department misinterpreted some of the founding laws under which the card operates.

The enforcement notice he duly issued required the service to cease processing data for registration and card issuance, which the service subsequently appealed.

Significant adjustments need to be made to the Department’s approach to retaining applicants’ personal information under the new agreement. This is due to the recognition that a system based on the blanket and indefinite retention of all information contained in documents submitted in support of a PSC application “does not strike an appropriate balance between the rights of a candidate under data protection legislation”.

“I am very happy that this case has been resolved. Given the high level of adoption of PSC/MyGovID, today’s agreement is good news for both our citizens and public service providers,” said Minister of Social Protection Heather Humphreys.

“Most importantly, the agreement means that members of the public can continue to request their CFP for the purposes of dealings with ministries, which has proven extremely useful given the heightened online interaction during Covid.”