Dave O’Farrell writes:
The Public Services Card is a biometric ID, the chip embedded in the card contains, in addition to your personal details, a biometric scan of your face.
The cards were first introduced in 2011 and since then the list of services for which it is required has rapidly expanded.
It is now required to collect social welfare payments, including the free travel pass; to apply for a Driver Theory Test and to apply for your first passport or to replace a lost, stolen or damaged one.
This list is set to expand even further, for example it is planned to require one to apply for a student grant from 2018. This has led to very reasonable fears that it is in fact a National Identity Card brought in through the back door.
The government’s response has done little to allay these fears. Regina Doherty, the Fine Gael Minister for Employment and Social Protection, stated that the card is “mandatory but not compulsory”.
This Jesuit style wordplay rings more and more hollow as essential service after essential service requires the applicant to produce the card.
People are right to be worried about the direction in which the Public Services Card is going. Legal and data protection experts have all warned of the potential dangers.
There is no proper legal framework as to how it will operate, what data is collected, how it is stored, how it is accessed and who has access to it.
This is particularly concerning where state services have been privatised – for example the Driver Theory Test is outsourced to Prometric Ireland Ltd, an Irish subsidiary of a multi-national company operating in over 160 countries.
While many countries have introduced National Identity Cards many have not – usually after public opposition due to the potential for abuse.
By greatly expanding the public services card, without any public debate the Fine Gael / “Independent” Alliance government are once again showing their contempt for even the most basic democracy.
In the absence of proper debate it will be up to ordinary people to stop the continued roll out until we are satisfied that our personal data is safe and no one is denied access to the public services we are all entitled to.