Depart­ment won’t re­lease re­port on ser­vices card

Irish Examiner - - News - Eve­lyn Ring

The Depart­ment of So­cial Pro­tec­tion is re­fus­ing to re­veal in­for­ma­tion on the Data Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sioner’ s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the law­ful­ness of the pub­lic ser­vices card.

The Ir­ish Coun­cil for Civil Lib­er­ties had asked the depart­ment about the com­mis­sioner’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der Free­dom of In- for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion.

Re­fus­ing the re­quest, the depart­ment said it would “be con­trary to the pub­lic in­ter­est” to re­lease in­for­ma­tion about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

An­other rea­son for re­fus­ing the re­quest was that the “re­quester con­cerned would thereby be­come aware of a sig­nif­i­cant de­ci­sion that the body pro­posed to make.”

The ICCL, a lead­ing in­de­pen­dent hu­man rights or- gan­i­sa­tion, had asked for “all in­for­ma­tion” about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the com­mis­sioner, He­len Dixon.

In Oc­to­ber 2017 it was re­ported that Ms Dixon, had opened a for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion to see if the card fully com­plied with the law.

Ms Dixon pre­sented a draft re­port to the depart­ment in Au­gust 2018, ac­cord­ing to cor­re­spon­dence that the depart­ment pro­vided to ICCL in re­sponse to their FoI re­quest.

It was re­ported last Septem­ber that the com­mis­sioner gave the depart­ment two weeks to re­spond to the draft re­port.

The ICCL be­lieves the pub­lic ser­vices card is a dis­pro­por­tion­ate in­ter­fer­ence with pri­vacy and does not pro­vide ad­e­quate safe­guards from abuse.

Coun­cil di­rec­tor Liam Herrick said “full trans­parency” was needed on the le­gal ba­sis for the pub­lic ser­vices card be­cause it vi­o­lated the pri­vacy and data pro­tec­tion rights of peo­ple liv­ing in Ire­land.

“We have been cam­paign­ing against its in­tro­duc­tion be­cause it’s un­nec­es­sary, costly, and of ques­tion­able ef­fi­cacy,” said Mr Herrick.

He said it was “deeply trou­bling” that the Gov­ern the ment had con­tin­ued to roll the card out for es­sen­tial ser­vices while a ques­tion hangs over its le­gal­ity.

The ICCL in­tends to ap­peal the depart­ment’s de­ci­sion to the Of­fice of the In­for­ma­tion Com­mis­sioner.

“We be­lieve that the pub­lic has an im­me­di­ate right to know what de­ci­sions are be­ing taken be­hind closed doors about our pri­vacy,” said Mr Herrick.

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