Government criticised for pushing ahead with PSC scheme a year after interim DPC report

Civil liberties campaigners have criticised the Government for pushing ahead with the roll-out of the Public Services Card (PSC) despite receiving a critical interim report from the Data Protection Commission (DPC) over a year ago.

Last week, the Data Protection Commission (DPC) said there is no legal basis for requiring the PSC to access many public services which now require it.

According to the Irish Examiner, an interim report was submitted by the DPC to the Department of Public Expenditure and the Department of Social Protection in August 2018.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, whose department oversaw the expansion of the PSC scheme, was aware of an interim report.

Officials from the two Departments produced a 470-page response to the interim report, but the DPC’s final report ultimately replicated the findings of the interim report.

Elizabeth Farries, information rights project manager at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), said: “We’re disturbed that Paschal Donohoe, as head of a department with responsibility for a mass data harvesting project, was not more proactive when learning about the existence of a report with adverse findings regarding that project from the Commissioner.

“It raises a lot of unanswered questions. Why was the project still rolled out? How seriously was the department taking the Data Protection Commissioner? What does it mean in terms of the respect the State holds for the privacy rights of Irish people?”

Dr TJ McIntyre, solicitor and chairman of Digital Rights Ireland, told the Irish Examiner: “Public Expenditure knew of the legal flaws with this project. They proceeded on the basis that they would ignore the law and push ahead with it, make facts on the ground, and dare the Commissioner to stop them doing what they wanted.

“[Social Protection Minister] Regina Doherty is something of a patsy here, the fall guy for a project that is as much the product of Public Expenditure and her own officials as it is her’s.”

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