New ID cards will carry your key biological data
Published 27/01/2010 | 05:00
THE controversial public services identity card will be equipped to carry biological data -- such as fingerprints and eye scans -- when it is unveiled later this year.
The new details emerged following the confirmation yesterday that the Department of Social and Family Affairs contracted a biometrics company to produce the cards.
The scheme will now be rolled out in the second half of the year.
The department told the Irish Independent that there were "no current plans to carry DNA or any form of biometric data on the card".
"However, the card, as proposed, can include biometric data," it added.
The Government says that about three million people over the age of 16 will carry the card.
And thousands may have to present themselves at welfare offices to sign up for it when it is launched.
It is hoped that every adult in the country will have a card within three or four years.
Existing data held by the Government -- such as photographs, signatures and PPS numbers -- will be used to create the cards.
Much of the data is already available to the State through other forms of identification, such as passports.
More than three million people over the age of 18 hold Irish passports, but it is not clear how many of them live in the State. Figures for those aged 16 and over could not be provided.
If there are any gaps in a person's information held by the authorities, that person will then have to give the missing details -- meaning thousands of people could have to go to welfare offices.
"It is not possible at this time to estimate the volume of customers for whom data is not held but it is intended to ask these customers to personally register for the card," a statement from Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin's department said.
The card will initially contain the holder's name, photograph, signature and public service number, which is used to access welfare benefits and other state services.
In addition, personal details such as a person's date of birth, former surnames and mother's surname are likely to be electronically encoded on the identity card.
Any other information that may be deemed necessary can be either inscribed or electronically encoded on the card.
The Government is ploughing ahead with the scheme despite the reservations of groups like the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.
Officials say that it will allow easier access to public services, cut red tape and clamp down on welfare fraud.
Biometric Card Services, part of the Smurfit Kappa Group, has won the tender for the €18m contract.
The company -- which is based in Bray, Co Wicklow -- specialises in vouchers, revenue stamps, cheques, passports and other security-printed products.
The company declined to comment on what kind of biometric data the cards would be equipped to carry, and the Department of Social and Family Affairs could not specify either. The department says that Biometric Card Services will handle what it calls the "personalisation, distribution and customer handling" of the card system.
It also says the company will handle the "provision of associated card bureau services".
"Other departments and agencies would also be in a position to use the card.
"A public service provider who uses the Public Service Card will be able to gain the benefits of card-based identity and authentication with minor changes to their systems," the department said.
"The card can be distributed through multiple means such as the postal system, collected at public offices, etc.
"The method of distribution and location of delivery will depend on the circumstances of each applicant."
It is not intended as a national identity card and the department says that such a card is a "wider issue".
"It would require due consideration by the Government and the development and implementation of legislation to support any such policy."