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