The Department of Social Protection has been forced into a U-turn after its appeal challenging a Data Protection Commission (DPC) ruling that the Public Services Card is illegal was resolved before trial.
As the Irish Examiner reports, the DPC announced this morning that the matter has been resolved, and the Department has acknowledged that the controversial card cannot be made a mandatory requirement for accessing public services “in the absence of legislation”.
It was one of the key rulings made by the DPC against the card in August 2019, which had put a stop to public bodies like the Passport Office requiring a citizen to have a PSC in order to get a passport.
The Commission said it “welcomes” the resolution of the proceedings in a statement this morning.
It said it particularly “welcomes the fact that significantly enhanced levels of information are now being provided to citizens to explain (amongst other things) what personal data is processed when an individual applies for a PSC, how it is processed, and to what end, with further enhancements to follow on the basis of additional engagement between the parties”.
The case had been due for at least an eight-day hearing in the Dublin Circuit Court from this morning, two years since the Department had first lodged its appeal, although the indications from a pre-trial hearing earlier this week were that both sides were negotiating to avoid a full hearing.
A spokesperson for the Department said that it is now “acknowledged and accepted that the Department and other specified bodies can continue to use MyGovID (the digital side of the PSC) as the sole means of authenticating identity for the purpose of accessing online services, provided that an alternative service channel is available”.
This means that the PSC database can still be used for public services online, so long as other portals to access those services also exist.
It could have ramification in terms of driving licencing services, where it is only possible to apply for a licence online if you have a PSC.
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said she is “very pleased” that the matter has been resolved.
“Given the high level of PSC/MyGovID take-up, today’s agreement is good news both for our citizens and public service providers,” she said.
“My Department looks forward to working constructively with the DPC to ensure the data protection rights of our citizens are fully protected,” she added.