■ No plans to ex­pand amount of per­sonal info on card, says Do­herty

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Caro­line O’Do­herty, Elaine Lough­lin, and Fi­achra O Cion­naith

Min­is­ters have launched a united de­fence of the public ser­vices card over con­tro­versy around the de­ci­sion to make it com­pul­sory for ac­cess to a grow­ing num­ber of ser­vices.

Min­is­ters have launched a united de­fence of the public ser­vices card as con­tro­versy con­tin­ues around the de­ci­sion to make it com­pul­sory for ac­cess to a grow­ing num­ber of ser­vices.

So­cial Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Regina Do­herty moved to as­sure crit­ics of the card that she had no plans to ex­pand the amount of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion held on it.

That is de­spite the law used to sup­port the cre­ation of the card stat­ing that a min­is­ter may at any time re­quire ex­tra in­for­ma­tion to be ei­ther in­scribed or elec­tron­i­cally en­coded on it.

Ms Do­herty said the in­for­ma­tion on it could be shared with around 50 State agen­cies and bodies, but the law lists only around 50 by name or type and states that a min­is­ter can add oth­ers.

She told RTÉ the in­for­ma­tion and data­base into which it is fed is se­cure. “All of that in­for­ma­tion is en­crypted and no­body can read that in­for­ma­tion from the card. All you can see on the card is the pho­to­graph, name, sig­na­ture, and ex­piry date,” said Ms Do­herty.

She in­sisted there is a proper le­gal ba­sis for the card and data­base and that it was de­signed for ef­fi­ciency, se­cu­rity, and ease of ac­cess to ser­vices. She said the process of reg­is­ter­ing is once-off and not bur­den­some.

Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris said that while iden­tity in­for­ma­tion might be shared with health­care providers, med­i­cal records would not be held on the card and it would not be re­quired to ac­cess health ser­vices.

“There is ab­so­lutely no sug­ges­tion or any po­ten­tial as­ser­tion, whis­per, or any­thing else that any­body’s med­i­cal records would be con­tained on the public ser­vices card, so let’s be clear about that,” he said.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter De­nis Naugh­ten also dis­missed con­cerns that the card was a de-facto na­tional iden­tity card, adding that there wasn’t “leg­isla­tive back-up” to make it a na­tional iden­tity card nor plans to in­tro­duce one.

He ac­knowl­edged, how­ever, that there was con­cern and con­fu­sion among farm­ers over whether they would need cards in or­der to ac­cess farm pay­ments, as some of­fi­cial doc­u­ments sug­gest.

“There is quite a lot of clar­i­fi­ca­tion and in­for­ma­tion that will be pro­vided to farm­ers,” he said.

De­spite the re­as­sur­ances, Digital Rights Ire­land main­tained its stance that there is no spe­cific piece of leg­is­la­tion that al­lows for the card to be made com­pul­sory to ac­cess state ser­vices.

The Data Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner also re­stated her con­cerns about the lack of ad­e­quate com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the public about the cards.

As pre­vi­ously re­ported, the com­mis­sioner has told the depart­ment to an­swer and pub­lish a com­pre­hen­sive list of fre­quently asked ques­tions to fully clar­ify all de­tails about the card. She said she will as­sess the depart­ment’s re­sponse to the FAQs, “which we ex­pect will be pub­lished im­mi­nently”.

One ques­tion asks “how the leg­isla­tive pro­vi­sions set out in the rel­e­vant So­cial Wel­fare Acts, which have been cited to the Data Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner as the le­gal ba­sis for the PSC, pro­vide a ro­bust le­gal ba­sis for what is now be­ing im­ple­mented across the public sec­tor, be­yond public ser­vices pro­vided by the Depart­ment of So­cial Pro­tec­tion?”

Regina Do­herty: There is a proper le­gal ba­sis for the card.

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