Sunday 16 December 2018

Public service efficiency need not be 'big brother'

It is too easy to cry foul and make noises about a dastardly state apparatus trying to snoop on its citizens. Stock Image: PA
It is too easy to cry foul and make noises about a dastardly state apparatus trying to snoop on its citizens. Stock Image: PA
Editorial

Editorial

Earlier this year, there was an understandable furore when more details about Government plans for the use of the universal services card emerged. It has been advanced as helping streamline provision of public services to citizens.

Against that, civil liberties advocates have argued that this is a national identity card being introduced by stealth. They see a potentially sinister "big brother" aspect with citizens' privacy rights being eroded by a prying state authority.

Today, we report on new details of Government plans, involving extended use of the Public Services Card, especially in relation to the Revenue Commissioners. It appears we are moving to a situation where citizens' efforts to remain tax compliant, including paying the property tax, will require this card.

It is too easy to cry foul and make noises about a dastardly state apparatus trying to snoop on its citizens. But even if we are placing full trust in our Government and administration, we have to say that developments so far on this one do not inspire confidence.

We have been given a sort of double-speak, telling us that these cards are "mandatory but not compulsory". After we have pored over blockbuster dictionaries, we are still unsure what that is supposed to mean in practice for a citizen merely trying to comply with the law of the land and access State services.

Equally, what are we to make of the drip-feed of scanty information on this issue? Surely it is time we were told just what this card's uses are - and what they are not.

At very least, the lack and paucity of information on this important issue do not inspire confidence. It is time citizens were told everything in comprehensible detail.

Irish Independent

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