Your Card Has Been Declined


Then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, at the Public Services Card Centre, D’Olier House in Dublin after he registered for a Public Services Card (PSC) with the Department of Social Protection on September 8, 2006

This morning.

A special investigation by the Data Protection Commission into the Public Services Card has found that while there is a legal basis for people having to present a PSC in respect of receiving a social welfare payment of benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, there is no legal basis for for people having to present one in respect of any transaction between a person and a public body outside the department.

It also found that the department’s “blanket and indefinite retention” of information provided to it by people who have Public Service Cards – 3.2million people – is unlawful.

And it found that the information provided by the department to the public about the processing of their personal data – in respect of issuing a Public Services Card – is “not adequate”.

The supporting information that the 3.2 million card holders had to hand over to get their card – such as utility bills, etc – must now be deleted, the DPC has said.

It has given the department six weeks to come up with a plan to make the necessary changes – a plan which has to include a time period within which those changes will be made.

The DPC has also said the Department of Employment and Social Protection must “stop all processing of personal data carried out in connection with the issuing of PSCs” where a card is being issued solely for the purpose of a transaction between a member of the public and a body other than the department.

Bodies separate to the Department of Employment and Social Protection can also no longer insist that a person who doesn’t have a Public Services Card must get one to access a service they provide.

And the Department of Employment and Social Protection has to contact all the public bodies that have been requiring people to produce a Public Services Card to tell them they will no longer be issuing cards for these transactions.

The DPC has made the following comment about its investigation:

“Ultimately, we were struck by the extent to which the scheme, as implemented in practice, is far-removed from its original concept.

Whereas the scheme was conceived as one that would make it easier to access (and deliver) public services, with chip-and-pin type cards being used for actual card-based transactions, the true position is that no public sector body has invested in the technology capable of reading the chip that contains the encrypted elements of the Public Sector Identity dataset.

Instead, the card has been reduced to a limited form of photo-ID, for which alternative uses have then had to be found.

Even in terms of stated justifications for the card around identity validation standards and fraud-prevention, it was established that cards are in fact issued in some cases without the applicant being required to submit to the full range of identity checks.

Surprisingly, the criteria applicable to such exceptions remain unclear.

As new uses of the card have been identified and rolled-up from time to time, it is striking that little or no attempt has been made to revisit the card’s rationale or the legal framework on which it sits, or to consider whether adjustments may be required to safeguards built into the scheme to accommodate new data uses.

Instead, the development of the card has proceeded by way of one-off, piece-meal changes to existing social welfare legislation, resulting in a situation where, in our view, the approach to the project from a data protection perspective is lacking in coherence and where, more importantly, there is little or no evidence of any attempt to balance the interests of the State, acting through those public bodies who participate in the scheme, and the interests of those members of the public who are required to obtain and produce the card (and provide their personal information when registering for it).

Certainly, there is no evidence of any such balance being re-examined on each occasion when a new form of use is identified for the card.

That cannot be considered acceptable in a data protection context where careful calibration is required when considering adjustments to any scheme that, by its very nature, interfaces with established and important legal rights.

Elizabeth Farries, Information Rights programme manager at the irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), said:

“The DPC findings are a disaster of the government’s own making.

“For years, ICCL has urged government to cease the roll out of the PSC due to human rights concerns, and pending the conclusions of this very investigation. Nonetheless, they continue to demand biometric information – in the form of the PSC – in exchange for essential services. And they continue to store that information unsafely in a database.

“….Not addressed in the DPC press release is this particularly controversial biometric element. The PSC contains a jpeg facial image, from which the Department extracts an analytical model which it then stores on a database vulnerable to attack. Biometric data is a special category of personal data that requires particular safeguards to avoid harm to its owner. Farries notes:

People should not have to trade their biometric data to access essential services to which they are already entitled. Such a requirement is incompatible with domestic and EU law and human rights standards.

“ICCL has been saying that this is an urgent problem that requires an immediate resolution. We urge the DPC to provide a clear statement on this point.”


Lawyer Simon McGarr has tweeted his thoughts…

In fairness.

Irish State told to delete ‘unlawful’ data on 3.2m citizens (Irish Times)

Previously: Identity, State Control And You

‘Grossly Misinformed’

It’s Too Big




64 thoughts on “Your Card Has Been Declined

    1. millie vanilly strikes again

      And they would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for that meddling Data Protection Commissioner…

      They are, it must be said, some shower of diseased anal passages.

      1. Treasa

        Joe, they have wasted millions of our money, they have proven themselves incompetent over and over and over again, surely there should be accountability. If someone I worked with stumbled from disaster to catastrophe while bleeding the company coffers, pension fund dry etc., damn bloody right I’d like them to resign. Don’t you agree?

        1. Joe Small

          Treasa, Public Services Cards will still be used as per their original purpose – to serve as ID for social welfare recipients and to reduce fraud. In this particular case, there is no waste.

          Who is the “they” you keep referring to? Of course there is government waste but its not the same person wasting it all the time!

          As someone who has worked in both the public and private sectors, the main difference I’ve noticed is that the private sector is better at keeping its mismanagement and waste a secret. But ultimately, as consumers, we pay for that waste too.

          1. Treasa

            Joe, there was no need for another form ID for social welfare recipients. THEY wasted 60million on this! The government! Fine Gael. In yet another wasteful and incompetent fiasco. They (Fine Gael) are brilliant in their ability to be comeplletely wasteful and incompetent at every single turn. A party of idiot fraudsters, that has been proven over and over and over again. From multiple fraudulent comp claims, to this, to housing, to health and on and on and on. I really don’t know why you would continue to defend them.

  1. millie vanilly strikes again

    The thoughts of facebook being given access to PSC data is truly, truly chilling. Especially given revelations about CA and their extremely questionable use of FB data.

    1. dav

      It wouldn’t be “given” it would be sold like they want to do with States Water, like they have done with public housing. some nice back handers to sweeten the deal

  2. Joe Small

    If you read what’s above, DEASP can still keep using the card with no problem. Also, its stated above that state bodies allowed citizens to use the card as another form of ID (in addition to passport, drivers license, etc.) rather than reading the chip on the card.
    What will happen now if either DEASP will appeal the DPC’s ruling in the High Court or they will probably legislate so that existing usage of the card is fully legal.
    I had all sorts of ID cards I was legally obliged to carry with me when I lived in other EU countries. The public service card is no big deal in comparison.

    1. Treasa

      Joe, it is a disaster, there was/is no need for another form of ID. It has been a massive and unconscionable waste of our money, it is illegal. It is yet another FG catastrophe. You don’t seem to be grasping the enormity of YET ANOTHER FG mess. I don’t understand why you are defending it either!

      1. Qwerty123

        It was brought in to stop people fraudulently claiming social welfare, and it has worked i believe. People were using various other forms of forged ID to claim when they weren’t entitled or make multiple claims.

        1. Treasa

          Social welfare cheats, cheat us all? This nonsense has been proven a myth, time and time again. Social welfare fraud is miniscule, and mostly due to Social Welfare incompetence and over payments rather than fraud. There is no evidence to back up one iota of what you are suggesting. Why are you defending yet another blatant FG disaster and waste of our money, Qwerty?

        2. GiggidyGoo

          What was brought in to stop the department itself overpaying? That’s where the bulk of the discrepancy occurred.

      2. eoin

        The PSC has cost €60m up to the end of 2017.

        What’s the estimated saving on social welfare fraud? €10m a year? And how much of that fraud was uncovered from use of the PSC? A fraction?

        It’s an outrageous waste of money which was illegally expanded to interfere with citizens’ rights.

        And when found out, where is Regina? No-where to be found, or at least she’s ducking interviews today.

        1. Qwerty123

          Can you not google that? Like what you do all the time? and mostly not able to understand what your reading?
          For example –

          And and example of PSC card working:

          In January 2018, a fraudster was given a three and-a-half year sentence at Dublin ­Circuit Court.
          The individual had used two identities to accumulate over €175,000 in social welfare ­payments over 12 years.
          The fraud came to light in 2015 when the person was invited to be registered for a Public Services Card and the Department’s systems matched the person’s photograph to the other identity which the ­person had been using to claim social welfare payments.

          Why? as it uses more than just name to verify the persons identity.

          1. Treasa

            1. The Sun
            2. The timing of the article
            3. “errors in payment”
            4. You should be ashamed of yourself defending this

          2. eoin

            I don’t mean to sound condescending to you, but the €108m relates to fraud AND ERRORS.

            And in terms of investigations of fraud, Regina said last month that 9,791 cases of suspected fraud were investigated last year as a result of a tip-off from the public. It was 14,363 the previous year. I think you’ll find plain old fashioned curtain-twitching touting is the main determinant in the detection of fraud, not the PSC.


            Today is mostly about the government’s illegal activity, but the cost/benefit controversy has been there for some time.

            Regina should go, though in truth, if this 50-TD FG govt with 33 ministers had originally had more choice, she’d never have been a minister in the first place. She’s not even local councillor material.

          3. Qwerty123

            @ treasa I am deeply ashamed, deeply, I will go to a tibetan monastery now and reflect on my life so far…..

            @eoin – like your constant met eireann is a waste of money nonsense, you just dont understand. I actually did an eoin and copied and pasted an example, of which there are thousands, where the PSC caught somebody fraudulently claiming welfare they were not entitled to. It also will help with errors too, if you were given welfare you were not entitled too, would you keep quiet or let them know they made a mistake? Is keeping quiet on a mistake not the same as fraud? With the PSC, multiple agencies and bodies can easily correlate their records and find errors and fraud.


          4. Treasa

            Well you should feel ashamed, you are defending the cheating of your fellow citizens through continued incompetence and fraud, the defrauding the poorest and the weakest. Because that’s what this is about. Those are the people who suffer most as a result of Fine Gael’s fraudulence and incompetence. You should absolutely be ashamed of yourself.

          5. Qwerty123

            @treasa, oh i see, as the PSC makes it harder to fraudulently claim, it defrauds the poorest?? Now i see where you are coming from. Well then, I’m not ashamed anymore, anything that makes it harder to defraud the state should be welcomed.

            …cancels flight to tibet….

      3. max

        If i can bring a public services card with me instead of digging out my long form birth cert passport and utility bill every time i fill in a form i am happy…

  3. eoin

    At 10am this morning, Simon Coveney still has this on his website.

    “he Passport Service of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would like to remind all first-time passport applicants aged 18 and above who are resident in Ireland to present a photocopy of their individual Public Services Card (PSC) for identification purposes when applying for their passport.

    This requirement also applies to the small number of adult passport applicants:

    a) whose last passport was issued prior to 1 January 2005 and has since been reported as lost, stolen or damaged, or

    b) whose last passport expired more than five years ago.

    The measure is an important step considered necessary to enhance protections against fraud and identity theft and to uphold the integrity of the Irish passport. It will also ensure that the identity of first-time applicants for Irish passports continues to be verified to a high standard.

    First-time adult passport applicants who currently don’t have a PSC can obtain one through a secure process of in-person registration via their local Department of Social Protection office. Details of relevant documents needed to complete the PSC registration process and an online appointment booking service are available via

    The PSC is used increasingly as an efficient and secure means to access government services including social welfare services and for the purposes of free travel on public transport. Already over 1.8 million cards are in circulation.”

    Unlawful and illegal.

    1. Joe Small

      The flip side of this is now it may be more difficult to renew an Irish passport as an alternative form of identification has to be found. The law of unintended consequences runs long in government.

      1. Donal

        The sheer stupidity of this notion is incredible

        “I would like to renew my passport”

        “How do we know who you are?”

        “here is my passport, which you gave me ten years ago, isn’t it a spiffing product, well made, has lasted me wonderfully”

        “no, that pile of poopy is worthless, doesn’t tell us who you are, you could be any fraudster”

        6 Months later, walking thru passport check at airport, immigration officer glances at passport, welcomes you home..

        “Hmmmm, I coulda sworn this was a worthless piece of poopa-loopa, so the passport office told me anyway”

        1. Cian

          you only need(ed) a PSC to get a passport if
          (1) it is your first passport ever
          (2) your last passport is more than 5 years expired (so 15 years since issue)
          (3) your passport was 4 years expired and lost/damaged (i.e. you can’t provide it as ID)

          if you are just renewing a passport, the old one is sufficient ID.

      2. eoin

        The statement has come from the Data Protection commissioner today.

        The govt will have been aware of the conclusions or likely conclusions for months.

        How did we ever survive getting passports before the PSC.

          1. italia'90

            Because of the introduction of the PSC?

            You’ve literally pullled that one out of your B9END!

            Ya big polyester bovine poopy pusher…

  4. Truth in the News

    The Revenue use the PPN number that was assigned to each PSI cardholder that was
    issued by the Dept of Social Protection, since the card can only be used for services with
    Social Protection, will the Revenue have to scrap the use of PPN as they will no longer
    have a legal right to access the database, what all this was a sly way on gathering
    intelligence on the citizens with use of an un-authorised Identity Card and the same goes
    for the postal code, the sections of the so called public service that cooked this need to
    be fired

    1. Joe Small

      I’m amused by those who think civil servants sit around thinking of malicious ways of collecting people’s data. Does it not make sense for government to share data across departments to ensure coordination of services? If someone unemployed wants to do an education course, won’t the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection need to share information with the Department of Education and Skills?

    1. Joe Small

      I have no interest in FG. I do however have a strong interest in policy and governance and a strong distaste for simplistic viewpoints and the baying of mobs.

  5. eoin

    Hopefully the govt will now outline its plans to reduce the number of PSCs from 3.2m to the number claiming social welfare. There are 206,396 on the Live Register. Shouldn’t that be the total with PSCs? It just shows how horribly this government has illegally expanded the use of the PSC in a covert attempt to introduce a national ID card by the back door.

    1. Qwerty123

      Jaysus Eoin, really? No other forms of welfare, no? Like child benefit? carers allowance? My god, nobody can be this stupid.

    2. Donal

      No, because all sorts of people who are not unemployed have social welfare claims

      Pensioners, mothers on maternity leave, fathers on paternity leave, low-paid employees in receipt of working family payments etc

      1. eoin

        That’s fair enough Donal [though the live register I think includes that last catergory, unemployment itself is just 110,000]

        So, what is the figure for recipients of social welfare? And what are the government’s plans to reduce the total of PSCs from 3.2m to that figure, now that their illegal attempt to expand the PSC to all citizens has been stopped.

  6. V

    Wasn’t there a sneery post here in the last week mocking Helen Dixon speaking at a conference?

    Ms Dixon had the professionalism, competence and good manners to provide this report in draft form to the Government almost a year ago it give them an opportunity to step up and make changes immediately.
    Instead they just threw more money at it.

    Apologies if this has already been flagged above – I haven’t got to reading everything yet

        1. Joe Small

          The DPC at a conference in Israel sponsored by their government is pretty interesting too though.

          1. V

            She’s an expert in her field
            And had demonstrated Independence and that she cannot be influenced

            Why wouldn’t organisers want her as a key note speaker?

            It is a pity the Paddys don’t think that much of her tho’

            The same sneering happened last year at the INM/ Red Flare Risk Management event

            Maybe if she was one of the boys huh?

          2. Joe Small

            I like the fact you threw in a racial slur before playing the feminist card.

            The DPC and the relevant Minister here are both women. I didn’t see any comments judging either of them on that basis here. You’re the only one calling attention to that .

          3. V

            You like it huh

            Well aren’t I doing a lot of pleasuring around here today

            Look-it Mr Small

            I’m only working under the same rules of play as the lads

            And I’ll never apologise for referring to myself as a Paddy

            Loud and Proud bhoy

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