Is It Safe Now?


From top: Public Services Card; privacy statement regarding the PSC which was changed overnight; former Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty

This lunchtime.

Cianan Brennan, of the Irish Examiner, is reporting that the department of former Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty has “changed its privacy statement overnight” regarding the Public Services Card.

The department is now stating (above) that biometric processing does occur as part of the Public Services Card database despite repeatedly denying that was the case.

It follows Ms Doherty losing her seat in Meath West at the weekend.

During a debate about the card last month on Virgin Media One’s Tonight show, Ms Doherty and Executive Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick had this exchange about the card…

Liam Herrick: “I think the Public Services Card is fundamentally flawed and it’s not just the reports we’ve had up to now. There’s ongoing investigations  into the biometric nature of the card. Bizarrely, the Government is saying the card isn’t a biometric card…”

Matt Cooper: “Sorry, explain, what does that mean?”

Herrick: “It means that it’s processing  biological information – in this case, a high-resolution photograph which can be processed and, using facial recognition technology, match against a database…”

Ivan Yates: “Ah here.” [puts head in right hand].

Cooper: “You love that type of stuff, don’t you?” [to Yates].

Yates: “Give us a break, Liam. The fact of the matter is if I produce my driver’s licence, it has my photograph on it. My passport, like don’t make it sound like Big Brother, oh my god, my privacy has been breached because of a photograph.”

Herrick: “I’m actually telling you what’s, the scientific description that was on the Government’s tender document that went out in the first place. And the company that makes the cards was originally called Biometric Card Services. And now the Government is denying it’s a biometric system. There’s another investigation…”

Yates: “It’s a photograph. Let’s call it what it is.”


Regina Doherty: “It is a simple photograph. It’s exactly the same photograph  that’s on your driving licence, it’s on your passport, it’s no different…”

Herrick: “It’s part of a database that’s shared across all Government departments.”


Herrick: “In the lead up to the election, whoever that’s going to be, we’ll be calling on all political parties to make a commitment not to dig ourselves into this any deeper and to step back.

“If we’re concerned about identity systems. Let’s start by reviewing what we already have. The passport and the driver’s licence work perfectly effectively in proving people’s identity. This is a project that’s just got out of control.

Doherty: “Oh. My. God.”

Herrick: “And it’s a real shame that the Government is compounding, you know, mistakes, misrepresentations on top of each other at this stage and compounding it with legal fees on top of the money that’s been wasted.”

PSC data protection policy updated after Doherty loses seat (Cianan Brennan, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: “It’s A Photograph. Let’s Call It What It Is”

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63 thoughts on “Is It Safe Now?

  1. 01101101 01100011

    I’m amazed anyone ever bought the lie in the first place. Helen Dixon certainly didn’t…be happy she’s at the gate….but she can’t do it on her own.

    caution to all. don’t expect it to go away.
    (your eyes would bleed if you knew what was really going on a lot of the time…I need some tinfoil, ahem)

  2. Treasa

    Isn’t it about time Ivan Yates went the way of his spirit animal, the Hookie Monster, and disappeared into a fog of gin and muttering somewhere?

  3. ZestOfMelon

    Biometric – metrics of biological characteristics; it is not biological information. An algorithm is run on a digital photo to attain the biometric information therein.
    I hate agreeing with FG or Ivan Yates but I don’t get the controversy surrounding the public services card.
    I’m in Belgium where it is required by law to carry the equivalent card on you at all times, and whilst I am certainly not advocating that law, a public services card is a necessity to a modern country.

    1. phil

      Article 4(14) of the General Data Protection Directive defines biometric data as follows; (emphasis added)

      ‘biometric data’ means personal data resulting from specific technical processing relating to the physical, physiological or behavioural characteristics of a natural person, which allow or confirm the unique identification of that natural person, such as facial images or dactyloscopic data;


      1. Dr.Fart

        there ya go, Phil. You’re facts have been refuted by an undeniable “no it isn’t” retort. no coming back from that.

        1. Treasa

          It’s not a competition. I can disagree with an unsubstantiated statement such as “a public services card is a necessity to a modern country”, without any obligation to tell you, or anyone else, why I disagree.

          1. Dr.Fart

            theres misunderstanging somewhere. im very against the PSC. and i absolutely hate regina doherty. and i dont have to anymore, which is great news.

          2. Cian

            Canada. Where they use “health cards” (alongside other forms) for identification may not have been the best example you could have chosen.

            Norway. Where the banks issue photo-id. And the government is due to roll out a national Id this year.


          3. Rob_G

            Having lived in countries where they have national IDs, I can confirm its great.

            If you want to join a library of something, no messing around looking for gas bills, they just swipe your card. Go the doctor, they swipe your card and your medical insurer reimburses you directly. Go to the pharmacy, get your prescription – same thing.

          4. Cian

            From your link:
            Driver’s licenses issued by the provinces are the primary form of identification. All provinces and territories except Quebec also issue separate photo identification cards for non-drivers. Health cards (issued by the provinces) and passports (issued by the Canadian federal government) are used as supplemental or alternative identification.

            Bank issued debit cards have had a photo of the holder on the back since the 1980s. The banks have stated that they no longer intend to issue photos on their debit and credit cards, as they think ID-cards should be a public service. This requires people who do not have a driving licence to bring their passport in many situations. Norway decided in 2007 to introduce a voluntary national identity card, to be usable for travel to EEA countries, but they are delayed and are planned to be introduced in 2020.

          5. Treasa

            From my link:

            CANADA: In the past, Canadian citizenship cards were issued to new Canadians upon naturalization and established Canadians (upon request). As of 2012 these cards have been discontinued, and there is no national identity card or equivalent. Driver’s licenses issued by the provinces are the primary form of identification. All provinces and territories except Quebec also issue separate photo identification cards for non-drivers. Health cards (issued by the provinces) and passports (issued by the Canadian federal government) are used as supplemental or alternative identification.

            NORWAY: No national identity card, but private identity cards exist which are needed in banks if not using a passport or driving licence. Bank issued debit cards have had a photo of the holder on the back since the 1980s. The banks have stated that they no longer intend to issue photos on their debit and credit cards, as they think ID-cards should be a public service. This requires people who do not have a driving licence to bring their passport in many situations. Norway decided in 2007 to introduce a voluntary national identity card, to be usable for travel to EEA countries, but they are delayed[128] and are planned to be introduced in 2020.[129][130] The reason for the delay is that the responsible authority requires absolute security on both the cards and the validation of the identity at issuance.

            Cherry-picking to suit your narrative, what a surprise … it’s over, Cian, you and your great FG spin machine cohorts can wind your brass necks back in now.

          6. Rob_G

            Treasa: what is your position, in the end?

            You are against nationally-issued government ID, but in favour of provincially-issued ID, and ID cards issued by banks?

    2. Harry M

      Those are my thoughts.

      And i think it comes down to what kind of government do you want?

      Do you want big government, i.e. the one where your tax take is significant but is the one that provides for you with services such as free education, healthcare, jobseekers benefit, unemployment benefit, pension, housing. If so, then a sophisticated government identification system is needed to prevent abuses, streamline efficiencies and numerous other advantages

      Or do you want small govt like the US one, i.e. the one where your taxes cover security only and then the govt needs to stay the hell out of your paycheck

          1. Treasa

            Cian, you are becoming more and more trollesque by the day and it’s incredibly tiresome. No one is okay with (FG failure No. 6,389) the PSC. No one is saying that.

          2. Treasa

            Cian, I’m sorry, but that is an absurdly disingenuous interpretation of the general mood of the thread and, as always, your “evidence” has been cherry-picked to suit your false narrative.

          3. GiggidyGoo

            Cian, all the evidence is not necessarily pointing to you being a shill for FG, but alas it’s true.

        1. Harry M

          no, there were issues before that because it was a government initiative and govt = bad for a lot of people. will be interesting to see if that changes

      1. 01101101 01100011

        Hi Harry
        this subject is very important to me and my uni studies actually in real life. Could you expand a little on that thinking please?(Outside of the citizenry themselves and being a policing mechanism for issues of cheating, theft etc.) My thoughts are along the lines of (right or wrong) its a simpler (or possibly lazier) shortcut i.e. Govt depts. are siloed in so many ways…infrastructure, resources (people, gear) internal politics and ideologies..a mash of outsourced transient subjectmatter experts mixed in with people who’ve been sitting behind the same desk for 30 years, shifting sands of available technology, a big fupping maze that’s possibly like that because nobody bothered to implement an overarching design idea encompassing all aspects of govt work and the data it creates in the first place?

        aka “Govt depts don’t talk to each other”


        1. Harry M

          not sure i fully understand your question, but i’d say take a look at Rob_G’s response above. Such a card should simply make things easier and more efficient. Whatever about GDPR (which is a challenge for every organisation), a lot of the resistance seems to be because it was implemented in the lifetime of this government rather than it being a bad idea.
          which is dumb in my own opinion :)

          1. 01101101 01100011

            what I’m musing is…

            is the PSC project simply shifting the goalposts FROM making the hard effort to interconnect and unify all existing data siloes (broadly) TO creating a new unique access point that offers an easier way to track and deliver “services” to its subject with the minor (-ve or +ve depending on your viewpoint) inconvenience of also having the capability (maybe with a bit of simple feature creep) of knowing where they are and what they are doing at all times?

          2. 01101101 01100011

            sorry Harry I’m on a phone screen…
            just to be clear I view PSC as a matter of State as opposed to FG, FF, whomever.

            what I’m poking at is….is it a matter of state convenience // citizen inconvenience
            and the price is an inevitable descent into the kind of surveillance shtshow they have in China for example?


      2. realPolithicks

        “Or do you want small govt like the US one, i.e. the one where your taxes cover security only and then the govt needs to stay the hell out of your paycheck”

        Is this “US” in some alternative universe because it certainly isn’t the one that I live in?

  4. Just Sayin

    By most peoples definition the photo on the PSC card isn’t biometric, same as driving license etc…

    However to get a PSC card you can’t just submit a pic. You must visit an Intreo Center where they will put in front of a 3D scanner where it will build a 3D map of your face (and take a regular pic too)

    This 3D mapping info is biometric data and is stored in a Department of Social Welfare central database.

    When a person applies for a card their 3D face map is checked against all the other 3D face maps in the central database to check if that person has already got a card (and they’re trying to cheat the system)

    It may be possible to store the 3D map on the chip on the card, but most likely it’s not stored there (it only exists in the remote database)

    The fact that the 3D data isn’t stored directly on the card allowed ‘Regina’ to say the card isn’t Biometric.

    But since everyone who has a card has allowed the biometric data for their face to be stored in a central database, then it’s impossible to say that this isn’t a biometric system.

    The government has hidden behind the fact that people ask about the card rather than the whole system.

  5. Brian

    Pedantry alert but Regina is still the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (not the “former Minister”). When the Dáil is dissolved the TDs are out but the Ministers, Taoiseach, and Tánaiste all remain in place until new ones are appointed. So Regina is still a Minister but not a TD.
    I am aware that I have sidestepped the entire point of this article. But it’s my comment and I can say what I like.

    1. 01101101 01100011

      great tidbit Brian, nice one

      I assume that’s to keep the lights on and transfer any of the work in progress, y? at that rate she could be there for months…YIKES!

      hm. Is that why Belgium managed to keep ticking when there was no govt for a couple of years there or is it just yet another archane practice in the system?

  6. wearnicehats

    What is the actual problem with all this hoohah. Nobody bats an eyelid at the information on the new passports – indeed, it’s a joy to zap it across a machine and not have to stand in a queue at 2am.

    I remember visiting friends in Malaysia in the early 1990s where, to top up your rail card you put it in the ATM and topped it up like a reverse debit card. They had loads of cool stuff like that 30 years ago – all of it in part only workable by everyone having national “identities”

    I’m all for databases -take my dna, do what you like. Keep it in a big box somewhere. If it helps to catch rapists, burglars, muggers, terrorists all the better. Is there really nothing that Irish people won’t get exercised about, especially as, despite all protestation to the contrary, the Irish are just about the nosiest nation I have ever encountered

    If I google something it arrives on my facebook page as an ad 2 minutes later. IS that any different, any less intrusive?


      1. wearnicehats

        No I haven’t but I’m not sure what your…..wait, I see where you’re going. First it’s an identity card that makes many aspects of my life easier and safer and, oh my god, before you know it we’ll be being run over by tanks and eating grass soup.

        Thanks for putting me straight. I’ve changed my mind – down with this sort of thing!

        1. millie vanilly strikes again

          Did you know they take a scan of your fingerprints, all of them and store them before you are actually granted access to China? You must submit to this or else no access is granted. This is in addition the the extremely thorough visa application process. Furthermore, this fingerprint ID in addition to your visa information and copies of your passport and other documentation are checked by customs officials before you are allowed into the country. And that’s just for a tourist.

          To become a student or citizen there the process is even more invasive and time consuming.

        2. millie vanilly strikes again

          Off topic, I know, but the point is that while China is the extreme, are we to allow our own biometric data to be used against us – as it is in China? Is this the first of many steps for a surveillance type state? Or does my tinfoil hat need polishing?

          I will say, the government has form for hiding information which is in the public interest from them, so what is to stop them in this case? And it does appear that they are obfusticating in some way.

          1. Harry

            Who are the goverment? They’re not some elite “powers that be”. They’re literally John and Mary down the road. That’s what’s diffrent to one party China, and security paranoid US. And the EU has given us many fantastic human rights frameworks and various protective directives and regulations.

            For those reasons, I’m quite happy to have a biometric card.

          2. millie vanilly strikes again

            Yes. Biometrics can be used as a means of tracking certain ethnic or minority groups using facial recognition technology, if a government were to so wish it, for example.

  7. GiggidyGoo

    All very well to-ing and fro-ing.
    The reason that FG wanted to push this information gathering isn’t for the benefit of the population. It’s the same as the way they were insisting on the personal data for water charges ( and they were caught out quickly on that when the IW site let it slip that they intended to sell the information).
    So, they already have your bank details – like it or not – matched to your PPS No. ( the number they were going to sell via the IW set up). They can see how much you’re worth (or not).
    Remember Richard Bruton and his ‘Big Data’?
    Bilderberg? Information is money.
    FGs friends are not us.

    1. Cian

      Jeez. Your tinfoil hat is slipping.

      The government already has all this data. Most people that get a social welfare payment have supplied a bank account. Either way to open a new bank account t you need to satisfy the bank you are who you say you are – i assume this information is sent to the state to be approved. .
      The state already has a unique identifier if it wants to crosscheck the different databases your PSN.
      It (probably) has your photo – between the passport and driving licence.

      1. GiggidyGoo

        Yet, notably, you don’t address the ‘data for sale’ aspect. No tin foil hat at all. I referenced the IW website and what it’s plans were for the data. Dinnydata as the plan was.

        I think you may be incorrect as regards the social welfare aspect too. My local shopkeeper is fulfilling payments to social welfare recipients. Pays it out in cash. I know, as he’s related to me. As do post offices.

        To open a bank account you need to provide your PPS number. Looks like a passport isn’t acceptable as ID.

        1. Cian

          Can you provide a link to the alleged IW website selling their data?

          I said “most” people get paid electronically. In 2012 DSW had a budget of almost €21 billion. Approximately 87 million individual welfare payments were paid annually this was: 50% to post office, 42.5% to bank and 7.5% cheques. I imaging the percentage of cheques has decreased since then.

          Yes, the bank needs your PPS number to open an account. I imaging they pass this to the government as part of the anti-money laundering legislation.

  8. wearnicehats

    It won’t let me reply to Millie etc any more but what I’ve gleaned so far is this

    It’s bad ’cause China – sorry, irrelevant.

    It’s bad ’cause a government might wish to target certain ethnic groups. Do you really think that the Irish government might actually do this for the laugh? They might target a certain ethnic group because they have intelligence to suggest that they should, just as they might look at some of the half wits around my area who target anyone less able than themselves – and do so with complete impunity from the law and they know it. Or someone who might like to spend some time staring into a playground or or or or or

    This is just paranoia. As people have said above, Big Brother is already watching you. Is watching you right now. If they want to know what you’re doing they will, regardless of whether or not you have a card with your photo on it in your pocket. None of you care that you already have effectively got biometric passports. You have no qualms handing these over to be scanned here or any other airport. Do you really think that Interpol or the CIA adhere to the strict GDPR guidelines of your Irish Times online Sunday Supplement??

    Last week a huge number of Irish people voted for a bunch of (ex) terror(allegedly)ists because they told you it was all in the past. We’ve changed. Really? Up the RA? Not recognising the criminal court? Personally, as someone who lived in 70s Ireland, I’d feel a lot happier if someone was (officially!) keeping an eye on David Cullinane for example, but I’d settle for a safer society where people who break the law might actually think that officialdom had an outside chance of convicting them based on being able to place them at a certain place at a certain time

    We’ve had recent referenda on a number of things to liberalise society (and great stuff to it all) – let’s have one to rein it back in a bit where needs be.

    1. Yep

      “Do you really think that the Irish government might actually do this for the laugh?”

      Maybe not for a laugh but trust in the services that are meant to protect Irish citizens has wavered considerably. Sgt. McCabe, penalty points, Doherty herself using the Gardai to police the internet, Poo-show that is Tusla etc.

      Personally, I don’t have an issue with them. What I and many take issue with how the government approached the matter. Lie. Then try waffle around the lie until they have to come clean.

      You’re getting awfully upset about other peoples’ scepticism when there are so many reasons to be a sceptic.

      Also, “Not recognising the criminal court” The special criminal court. Important distinction and it is not just the RA who have question it.

    2. millie vanilly strikes again

      Just so we’re clear, wearsnicehats, I have never stated my preference for or against the PSC card here. I actually have one myself, like plenty of others, and I see the value in them, especially, as Harry mentions above, with regard to fraud.

      However, I do question the lack of transparency by the government, the fact that they’ve changed their stance on it numerous times and I have issues with how it has been handled by the government eg. needing one to get a new driving licence at one point, if I remember correctly, and also a passport too – though I believe that is no longer the case for either. Nor do I see any harm in a healthy skepticism regarding government use of personal data. Surely it’s no bad thing for a government to be held accountable for ensuring that they protect it’s citizens personal data in a responsible manner.

      With regard to China, I simply find it an interesting case study in how far a surveillance state can push its citizens with regard to their personal data. I have relatives living there currently and it’s fascinating to hear their perspective life in one of the worst places for data protection with regard to its own citizens.

      But I’m sure you know better than me. Or you certainly think you do.

  9. 01101101 01100011

    hi wearingnicehats

    one of the risks in these kind of ideas is a race to the bottom situation like that which has already happened in China…there’s lots of articles out there on this subject but here is a reasonably fast one in plain English to get thru:

    that situation exists now, today

    tools, especially biometric type stuff, have the potential to misused. now you might have thought (maybe before looking at China’s SCS in that article there) sure what harm if “the govt” knows I had 3 bowel movements today but there’s a huge and demonstrated potential for misuse and abuse if we choose to architect a system with capability like biometric processing. cards and other things like smartphones allow me to build a system to know every inch of your life. but the tech is the tech, your major thing to be concerned about is that word misuse. because your misuse might be my legitimate application, see?

    oh and the likes of facial isn’t difficult to engineer by the way, there are tons of off the shelf ready to use toolkits out there, students are being encouraged into playing with it and its almost like lego, seriously.
    last year myself and 3 others were set a project by a tutor to build a working facial recognition system that was able to reliably track a persons movements (we had that bit mostly done in a week) and to extend it we are training an AI to extrapolate a profile of a subject person..basically guesstimate everything about them, an assessment. no human administration or intervention of any kind. and that’s on effectively yesterday’s technology and is just a student exercise. the commercial for purpose gear is waaay beyond what we are tricking around with.

    so when a career politician and non-practitioner like Doherty there or any other elected untrustworthy agenda driven goofball lies, tries to split hairs about the definition of this or that and brazenly tells our (and her) own data protection officer (who by the way is effectively the most senior data protection officer in the EU) to fupp off my alarm bells are ringing

    I don’t know what your political persuasion is but lets say you are currently bricking it that SF gets a shot at the title and their justice man Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire gets installed as your Minister for Justice. He’s not just the lad who makes new laws and directs matters of the Gardai you know, he’s in charge of the security of the state, that dark arts stuff nobody talks about. could that tool be misused? or is it legitimate? you still feeling confident and carefree?

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