Tag Archives: Public Services Card

From top: Public Services Card, Data Protection Commission, panel on last night’s The Tonight Show, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty; Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates; Executive Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick

This morning…

Further to the Department of Social Protection lodging an appeal against an enforcement notice handed down by the Data Protection Commissioner in relation to the controversial Public Services Card…

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty told journalists that the department hopes the court case will be “done and dusted by March”.

The appeal challenges the findings of a two-year investigation into the card by the Data Protection Commissioner.

The commissioner Helen Dixon found there is no legal basis for anyone to have to present a Public Services Card in respect of any transaction between a person and a public body outside Ms Doherty’s department – such as obtaining a drivers’ licence, passport, education grants, etc.

She also found that the supporting information that 3.2 million card holders had to hand over in order to get their card – such as utility bills, proof of ID, etc – must be destroyed.

Last night, Ms Doherty was on the panel of Virgin Media One’s The Tonight Show with Matt Cooper and Ivan Yates.

Also on the panel was Executive Director of Irish Council for Civil Liberties Liam Herrick, Solidarity–People Before Profit TD Bríd Smyth and Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers.

From their discussion about the card which has cost the State €68million-plus to date…

Matt Cooper: “Regina Doherty, why are you doing this? The Data Protection Commission is an independent office, set up to do an important job and you have undermined it by appealing against an important decision it has made.”

Regina Doherty: “Yeah, I don’t think we’ve undermined the office and it isn’t the first time that we’ve appealed a decision and it certainly isn’t the first time other decisions from the commission’s office have been appealed.

“And the reason we have to appeal it is we don’t agree with the findings of the report in August. We don’t agree with the recommendations in the enforcement notice that was issued to us in December…”

Cooper:Which is to destroy all of the information that you have assembled?

Doherty: “Ehm. No. Because there is a difference between the report in August, the enforcement notice in December and a number of letters that happened between August and September.

“And so on the basis that we firmly believe that the route we’ve taken, and successive previous governments have been taken, with regard to the introduction of the legislation that supports the card. We’re gonna challenge the findings and see what a court has to say, so…”

Ivan Yates: “Couldn’t you have avoided all of this if you took the policy decision some time ago and said, upfront to the nation, we’re going  to have a national ID card. We’re going to provide a comprehensive legal basis for it, instead of trying to do it by creep, through the Department of Social Protection…”

Doherty: “But you see the problem with that…”

Yates: “And adding on these other things?”

Doherty: “But no, the problem with that, Ivan, is that it isn’t a national identity card. And so I agree with you. I think if there was any government that wanted to introduce a national identity card – for the record, I don’t agree with them and I don’t support one – but if I was of a mind, or a government was of a mind that they wanted to do that, yeah, they should have a public consultation and they should bring forward legislation and have, you know, a proper conversation about it.

“But this isn’t a national identity card. You can’t even use it as a national identity card…

Talk over each other

Cooper: “But hang on, haven’t you got it by stealth?”

Doherty: “…in any other form, you know, other than you access in government services.”

Cooper: “But hold on, your idea was, not just for claiming your social welfare entitlements…”

Doherty: “No it wasn’t…”

Cooper: “That was the initial idea…and then you were asked…”

Doherty: “Actually it wasn’t…”

Cooper: “…if you’re going for your driver’s licence or renewing your passport. And if you didn’t have it…I mean you had this line that ‘It wasn’t compulsory but it was mandatory’.”

Doherty: “Yeah, and actually…”

Cooper: “Explain the difference to me between mandatory and compulsory.”

Doherty: “Well actually, of the original findings that the Data Protection Commission offered us in August, she upheld the fact  that it isn’t compulsory but it is mandatory for certain social welfare services and that’s what I had said a number of years ago.”

Later – after Ms Doherty said 3.2million people are using the cards “on a very regular basis” and that they have a choice not to use them because “there’s a route for all of the services in a paper-based route”…

Liam Herrick: “I disagree that what we have now [the PSC] doesn’t have all of the attributes of a national identity system. And I’m very surprised with the minister again repeating again what she said in the Oireachtas  recently – that there’s always been alternative routes to getting these public services, other than the Public Services Card.

“That’s simply just not the case. The Passport Office required the Public Services Card until a couple of months ago where they changed their policy. The Road Safety Authority  required the Public Service Card until a year ago when the Road Safety Authority changed its policy of requiring it for the driver theory test.

Doherty: “But that’s not true, Liam.”

Herrick: “Well. It’s not just me that’s saying it.”

Doherty: “The Road Safety Authority did change their mind but they never had a policy and changed the policy. They changed their mind from introducing it in the first instance which is entirely different.”

Later – after Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers said Ms Doherty’s department has “shown total contempt” for the office of the DPC and asked Ms Doherty why her department won’t publish the legal advice that it received in light of the DPC’s report…

Doherty: “We spent two years engaging with the public, or the Data Protection Commission, so to say that we didn’t engage is not true. Two full years we spent engaging with the commission. Since the report was issued to   us in August, on the 15th of August, we have written to the  commission probably four, maybe five, times, looking to engage further and those engagement requests have been refused.

“And so I’m not sure what else you would have me do, to try and get clarification and seek…”

Cooper: “Sorry, didn’t you have the report for long before last August?”

Doherty:No, I’m sorry, we didn’t. We got the report  on the 15th of August. It’s actually, it’s quite difficult to have a conversation with people when they don’t even know the facts. But the simple fact of the matter is that we have a different view and our understanding of the legislation differs from the view of the Data Protection Commissioner.

Two people have different  views of a piece of legislation, we’re quite happy to defend our view in the Circuit Court.

“It certainly won’t be millions and millions and millions of euro…It certainly won’t be millions of euro.”


Herrick:This is a question about law. It’s not about having opinions about a piece of legislation. The Data Protection Commission is the statutory  body which is mandated by law, by primary statute to adjudicate on questions of data protection. And it’s made a binding finding.

“And the Government hasn’t liked that finding. And now starts to refer to is as if it’s some type of discretionary opinion. This is of enormous significance because…”

Yates:Bríd. You’re a common sense woman. Can I put it to you? What’s on this, your PPS number, your date of birth and a photograph of ya? Like where is this Big Brother fear? If it accesses a more efficient way of getting public services and as we become more computerised and more software [inaudible] … surely it’s a kind of common sense provision?”

Smith: “Well you’re making the argument that the minister makes quite frequently in the Dáil when this issue is raised…”


Smith: “I think the Government want to send out a message to big data, globally, that this state is a safe pair of hands for the big operators like Google and Amazon and all the rest of it to do their data business in. They don’t want heavy regulation on data, they want light-touch regulation…”


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…”

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…”

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.”


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.”

Watch back in full here

Previously: House of Card

‘It Would Be In The Circuit Court So It Probably Wouldn’t Be Very Expensive’

‘Iarnród Éireann Used The Public Services Card To Collect The Information’


Lawyer and Information Rights Programme Manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries

This evening.

Lawyer and Information Rights Programme Manager for the Irish Council for Civil Liberties Elizabeth Farries tweeted in response to Ms Doherty’s comments on The Tonight Show last night.

Ms Farries tweeted:

“The Irish Council for Civil Liberties joined The Tonight Show yesterday to discuss the Public Services Card.

The minister [Regina Doherty] also appeared and said it’s “difficult to have a conversation with people when they don’t even know the facts.” Respectfully, we know the facts.

The minister said “Of course they have a choice” about the PSC.

Fact: Our right “to access an ever-increasing range of public services has, in effect, been made conditional upon production of a PSC” (DPC, at p21) What kind of “choice” is that?

Many have reported their lack of choice regarding the PSC.

Remember: The person denied a pension.

The teacher denied benefits after breaking her ankle.

The firefighter denied a passport.

The minister said the card involves a simple photograph.

Fact. It’s not simple. The photo is processed using facial recognition technology software for comparison against a database. See the department’s own report.

Not worried about facial recognition technology? You should be. It’s inaccurate, insecure, and destroys our privacy. This is why other governments are banning it.

The minister said this is simply a case that “two people have different views”.

Fact. This is untrue. The minister is not arguing with a political view.

The Data Protection Commissioner is the independent regulator, with the authority to make binding decisions on Government.

The problems with the Public Services Card don’t disappear simply because they are misrepresented.

The PSC is a facial recognition project that significantly violates our data protection and privacy rights.

Join us in fighting this illegal scheme today!”

Via Elizabeth Farries

Good times.

Previously:: “The PSC Targets Those Who Can Least Afford To Fight It”

PSC Card on Broadsheet.

From top: Then Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, after he registered for a Public Services Card in 2016; Bus shelter ad for the new National Childcare Payment scheme

Last night.

In The Irish Times, Kitty Holland reported:

The State’s decision to require parents to have a public services card to qualify for new national childcare payments is “illegal” and “highly discriminatory”, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has warned.

…Elizabeth Farries, privacy expert with ICCL, said the people who could least afford to lose out on the enhanced supports in the national childcare scheme were those “on the breadline”.

We’ve seen this for a number of years now, that the PSC targets those who can least afford to fight it. Those in receipt of social welfare payments, pensioners, students who need maintenance grants, they’ve all been forced to hand over their personal data in exchange for services to which they are already entitled.”

Public services card requirement for childcare payments ‘illegal’ (Kitty Holland, The Irish Times)


On Monday…

Cianan Brennan in the Irish Examiner, reported:

A languages teacher in rural Ireland broke her ankle but was denied welfare benefit by the Department of Social Protection because she refused to get a public services card (PSC).

The woman, who suffered the injury in September while walking in the countryside, had to undergo surgery. She was housebound after the accident and out of work without income for seven weeks.

Teacher denied access to social welfare after breaking her ankle and refusing to get PSC (Cianan Brennan, Irish Examiner)

Previously: The Sting

Public Services Card on Broadsheet

This morning.

At the Public Accounts Committee.

The committee’s chair Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming read from a letter outlining the costs to date related to the Public Services Card.

The letter sent to the committee was from secretary-general of the Department of Employment and Social Protection, John McKeon, and stated the cost of the card has, so far, amounted to €67.8million.

Reading from the letter, Mr Fleming said:

“€36million of which is in respect of staff costs, related to the administration of the SAFE process and then there’s €31.8million has been paid – broken down as follows: €29.2m to the card production company, set-up costs of €26 [million]….that doesn’t add up. It might have been €2.6 [million] perhaps. And they have desk and card activation at €2.64million.”

The Irish Times reported on the letter this morning, stating that, from the €67.8million figure, €36million was spent on staff costs, and:

“€29.2 million was spent on the card production company, €294,000 was spent on facial matching software and maintenance, and €2.3 million was spent on departmental hardware and ‘systems development’.”

Mr Fleming said representatives from the department are scheduled to come before the Public Accounts Committee in a few weeks and that members will then get to ask them specific questions about the card.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked that they be asked about the lifespan of the card, what the projected cost is, and if there are any storage costs in relation to the card.

She also added:

“I note here that ‘we don’t have biometrics’ , according to the department but ‘we have facial matching software and maintenance’. It’s not a gigantic amount of money but that, to me, suggests biometrics.”

Watch the Public Accounts Committee meeting live here

Public Service Card cost nears €68m as enforcement order ‘imminent’ (The Irish Times)

Previously: Public Services Card on Broadsheet

From top: Public Services Card; Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (left); Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon

This morning.

In The Irish Examiner.

Cianan Brennan reports that the Department of Children and Youth Affairs still hasn’t replied to a near two-week-old request from the Data Protection Commissioner for information concerning the controversial Public Services Card and the new National Childcare Scheme.

The scheme was scheduled to begin at the end of this month but now won’t begin until November.

Mr Brennan reports:

“The commissioner’s query concerns the requirement for all applicants to the new scheme to hold a public services card, which is perceived as being at odds with the commissioner ’s recent finding that mandating citizens to hold a PSC in order to access State services other than welfare is illegal.

“…The department has become something of an outlier since the publication of the commissioner’s report into the PSC on September 17, as the majority of other departments have since dropped their mandatory PSC requirement, despite Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty’s stated intention to legally challenge the commissioner’s rulings.”


Department yet to reply to Public Services Card info request (Cianan Brennan, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: House Of Card

‘Iarnród Éireann Used The Public Services Card To Collect The Information’

‘It Would Be In The Circuit Court So It Probably Wouldn’t Be Very Expensive’

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, T.D. speaking at the budget 2020 Press Conference in Government Buildings; Department of Justice press conference this morning

This morning.

It was thought that when the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe delivered Budget 2020 yesterday, no increase in funding was announced for the Data Protection Commission – which may soon be facing the State in court.

In light of this, solicitor and data protection expert Simon McGarr tweeted this morning:

“Greyhound racing gets an increase on €16m funding. The entire 100+ staffed DPC office gets €15.2m, no increase.

“For some reason the Dept in charge of the Public Services Card project didn’t increase funding for the regulator, despite huge work increase post-GDPR.”


Irish Independent journalist Hugh O’Connell, at a Department of Justice Budget 2020 press conference this morning, tweetz:

For those asking, the government’s funding for the Data Protection Commissioner’s office is up by €1.6m next year.

Total budget of €16.9m for 2020.

The Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon recently found there is no legal basis for the State demanding the use of the Public Services Card in order to access a range of public services beyond social welfare payments.

Ms Dixon ordered that Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty’s department stop issuing new PSCs, with immediate effect, to people seeking a service outside of her department.

She also ordered that the department delete the supporting documentation – such as utility bills, etc – that the department has retained on the 3.2million card holders.

Ms Doherty is categorical her department will not be complying with these orders and has said the State will challenge the findings of Ms Dixon – in court, if needs be.

This morning…

Cianan Brennan, in The Irish Examiner, reported:

“The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection did not share the interim adversarial findings of the Data Protection Commissioner (DPC) regarding the Public Services Card (PSC) with any affected bodies apart from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

This was despite being specifically asked and in a position to do so.”

Social Protection slow to share draft report on PSC (Cianan Brennan, The Irish Examiner)


The Irish Council for Civil Liberties has launched a petition calling for the card to be stopped and for data retained to be deleted.

The petition can be signed here

Related: Twitter and Facebook could be facing billions in fines after Ireland investigations (CNBC)

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 PSC in 2016; Washington Post


Loughlin O’Nolan tweetz:

The Public Services Card has made Bloomberg and the Washington Post. Not in a good way either.

Emmanuel Macron wants to scan your face (Washington Post)


Previously: Public Services Card on Broadsheet

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 PSC in 2016

Yesterday evening.

In the Dáil.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Pearse Doherty raised Cianan Brennan’s article in yesterday’s Irish Examiner with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe.

Mr Cianan reported that Mr Donohoe’s department ordered the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to drop a secondary method for parents to apply for National Childcare Scheme subsidies – ensuring that the only way parents can apply for the subsidies will be through MyGovID, for which one needs a Public Services Card.

Mr Doherty yesterday evening asked Mr Donohoe twice why the department ordered for the second method to be dropped and, twice, Mr Donohoe failed to give a reason for the move.

From their exchange:

Pearse Doherty: “The new national childcare scheme opens for applications on 29 October. No parent can apply for this scheme without a public services card.

“This is despite the Data Protection Commissioner’s decision that there is no legal basis for this requirement and it being deemed illegal by the commissioner.

“Parents who do not have a public services card will have no choice but to wait until January when written applications can be made. Why did the Department interject when a secondary method to apply for this scheme was to be provided for parents?

“At the insistence of the Department, this proposal was dropped by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

“Will the Minister explain this, given that the Data Protection Commissioner has deemed that there is no legal basis for leaving parents with only one option as regards the form of identification they can use to apply for the scheme?”

Paschal Donohoe: “My good colleague, the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, is working on ways to ensure that families and parents will be able to access the national childcare scheme.

“The Deputy referred to me being in the dock on this matter. I fully understand the views of the Data Protection Commission, an institution which I take seriously. In each of the budgets that I have introduced, I have made more resources available to the commission because it is an important organisation for the management of information, both for the private sector and Government.

“I have taken a different view on the role of the public services card following legal advice that has been made available to me. The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, and I did not take lightly the decision we made to offer a differing view from that of the Data Protection Commissioner.

“This was done after we obtained legal advice on where we stood, which left me satisfied that the card has robust legal standing and that the appropriate course was to make clear that we take a different view from the commissioner on this issue. I know the commissioner has spoken to the Oireachtas about the issue and indicated the course of action she is likely to take.

Doherty: “Will the Minister outline why his Department insisted that a second form of access to the national childcare scheme be dropped, leaving parents with only the public services card as a means of accessing this scheme?”

Donohoe: “We believe that we are on solid legal foundations in using the public services card as a way to help citizens to access services efficiently. Encouraging greater use of the public services card over time will lead to more convenient and efficient ways in which families and citizens can access public services.”

Doherty: “It is not very convenient for parents.”

When the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon appeared before the Public Accounts Committee last week – on foot of her examination of the PSC and her finding that it was unlawful for the State to require people to have a card in order to obtain any services beyond those offered by the Department of Social Protection – Ms Dixon said the following about the National Childcare Scheme and the PSC stipulation:

“The only alternative option that appears to be offered is a manual, paper-based application that will not be ready until the new year and will not provide back payments. Clearly, this is completely at odds with the findings of our report and the directions we have issued.”

Read back in full here

Yesterday: Card Shark

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 in October 2016

The new National Childcare Scheme will take effect on October 29.

It will see parents applying for subsidies in person rather than through their childcare provider.

The only way parents can apply for the subsidies will be through MyGovID – for which you need a Public Services Card.

Further to this, Cianan Brennan, in The Irish Examiner, reports:

From the scheme’s inception, as previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the only way to apply for those subsidies will be via MyGovID, the online face of the PSC, which requires the individual verification of each cardholder.

A postal application option is slated to go live in late January 2020 —however, subsidies will not be backdated.

It can now be revealed that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), the lead body behind the expansion of the card to services such as passport applications, ordered the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) to drop a secondary online authentication method so that MyGovID would be the only application portal available.

Alternative to PSC for childcare shut off in 2018 (Cianan Brennan, The Irish Examiner)

Previously: ‘Iarnród Éireann Used The Public Services Card To Collect The Information’


Public Services Card; Heuston Station in Dublin

This afternoon.

During the Public Accounts Committee meeting, during which the Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon fielded questions about the controversial Public Services Card…

The committee’s chairman Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming spoke about the experience of one of his constituents with their PSC.

He said:

“As TDs, I’m sure we all run into different constituents with different problems but a particular person I met had the travel pass as part of their social welfare card, they could present it and go on Iarnród Éireann and present it as the case may be because they were a carer.

“But a point came when they were no longer a carer.

“But they kept using the card and they weren’t carers. They weren’t entitled to use the card, but the card was still working.

“So about four or five months later they got a bill from Iarnród Éireann for about €1,048 and it listed all the dates that they’d used the card since, in their opinion, they were no longer deemed to be a carer.

“So they used that information, Iarnród Éireann used the Public Services Card to collect the information in relation to the number of trips the person made on the train.

“And one day they arrived in Heuston Station and they couldn’t get through the gate because Iarnród Éireann had obviously been in touch with Social Protection.”

Comptroller and Auditor General Seamus McCarthy suggested Iarnród Éireann presumably sought reimbursement from the Department of Social Protection for the trips taken and were subsequently paid for some trips and not for others.

Mr McCarthy said:

“Social protection would have no way of knowing what journeys were being taken.”

Mr Fleming again suggested Iarnród Éireann sought and obtained information from the Department of Social Protection.

Ms Dixon responded:

“We’d be very interested in looking at that in the context of the findings we’re about to issue…We’d be very happy to receive details on that in the context of what we’re looking at.”

Mr Fleming added that he doesn’t believe the case he referred to was an isolated case.


Earlier: The Irish Taxpayer May Have To Pay ‘By Virtue Of These Companies Being Headquartered Here’

Meanwhile, At The Public Accounts Committee