Saturday 20 January 2018

'Incredible lack of controls and transparency' - Concerns over mandatory ID Cards to get passports and driving licences

The Public Services Card
The Public Services Card

Kathy Armstrong

The announcement that Irish citizens will need a Public Service Card to obtain a passport or driving licence raises concerns about transparency and mass data sharing, a security expert said today.

Over 2.5 million people have obtained a PSC - which are compiled by information from various government departments.

Today Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said that while "it is not and will not be compulsory for people to get this card", they will be mandatory if you want to apply for a driving licence or passport.

Daragh O Brien, Managing Director of Castlebridge Data Protection and Data Governance, said that the introduction of this system must be as transparent as possible.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, he said: "If a democratic country is required to have it then one of the key processes of a democratic country is the debate and discussion of what is essentially a large change in the philosophy and approach of the state.

"In relation to it not being mandatory, if you require it to get a driving licence to get to work or to get a passport in order to go on holiday with your family then it is mandatory, even if the state is pretending otherwise...

Public Service Cards will be necessary for passport applications from next year (Stock picture)
Public Service Cards will be necessary for passport applications from next year (Stock picture)

"The reason there's a concern is that the national identity card cannot be done by Stealth without appropriate debate and transparency.

"One of the reasons for concern is the amount of sharing of data that will have to happen between government departments for this card to exist is quite large.

"That sharing will require a basis in primary legislation and it's required under EU law that we are told about this in advance.

Read More: The 60-second guide to... getting your Public Services Card

"There was a court case in 2015 called the Bar Ruling in the European Court of Justice which made it clear that for public sector agencies sharing data among themselves they would need to communicate that this was taking place.

"It makes sense to ensure that the sharing has an appropriate legal basis and that the state agencies doing the sharing are complying with European data protection law.

"If the sharing is important and has a valid purpose and is valuable for the state and the citizen then surely it should be put on the strongest foundation possible by making sure it is being doing in the most transparent and appropriate way."

In a statement issued to Newstalk, Minister Donohoe claimed that the ID cards are also in the best interest of our national security.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Tom Burke
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe Photo: Tom Burke

He said: "Government has an obligation to deploy the most robust means of online and physical identity verification possible to ensure that it is doing all it can to reduce fraud, personation and the risk of identity theft in in the delivery/accessing of public services."

Read More: British man (22) who stopped world cyber attack says he's not a 'hero' but fights malware because it's the 'right thing to do'

Mr O Brien said that while he could see the benefits of the system, there must be efforts to ensure it's done properly.

He said: "I'm not sure what the Government's difficulty is in enshrining this in law but what they are trying to do is introduce an umbrella data sharing bill  to give state agencies a carte blanche to share data on a broad basis.

"That's an attempt to get around the Data Protection Act requirements under EU law to have a clear statutory basis for sharing.

"Done right it could be a very good thing, however there's an incredible lack of controls and transparency in that legislation, which is before and Oireachtas Committee tomorrow.

"The Data Protection Commissioner has already raised concerns about scope creep in relation to this type of legislation, people still need to be told about sharing of their data and what is happening with their data."

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