Report of the Data Protection Commission on the Public Services Card Published

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Report of the Data Protection Commission on the Public Services Card Published
Tuesday, 17 September, 2019:
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has today published the report of the Data Protection Commission (DPC) on the Public Services Card (PSC). The Department has also published a comprehensive response to the findings of the report as well as related correspondence between it and the DPC.
As stated earlier this month, Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D. and the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe T.D. both informed Government that they are satisfied that the processing of personal data related to the PSC does in fact have a strong legal basis, the retention of data is lawful and that the information provided to users does satisfy the requirements of transparency. This opinion was arrived at following very careful consideration of the report and having taken the advice of the Attorney General’s Office.
On this basis the Ministers believe that it would be inappropriate, and potentially unlawful, to withdraw or modify the use of the PSC or the data processes that underpin it as has been requested by the DPC.
Accordingly it is intended, in line with decisions of successive Governments dating back to 1998, to continue to operate the PSC and the SAFE 2 identity authentication process on which it is based.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection had offered, together with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, to meet with the DPC to clarify a number of matters of concern arising from the DPC’s report, without prejudice to their position, that the SAFE 2/PSC process is compliant with legal requirements. However, this offer was not taken up by the DPC.
Minister Doherty today commented:
“I am happy, in the interest of transparency, to publish this report and to provide some further context by also making available my Department’s response and correspondence related to the report.  While we respect the office of the DPC, in this instance based on strong legal advice, we cannot agree with the findings contained within this report.
“We have strong legal advice that the existing social welfare legislation provides a robust legal basis for my Department to issue PSCs for use by a number of bodies across the public sector. My officials did seek to engage further with the DPC on this matter but regrettably that engagement was not possible and therefore we are publishing the report without any further delay.
“The PSC has been a worthwhile investment in better public services - allowing people to access public services in a streamlined manner without the need to submit the same documentation and information over and over again. Without the PSC process people would be required to verify their identity on multiple occasions with multiple agencies – a situation which would make access to services more cumbersome for members of the public. When surveyed, those using the card have registered extremely high satisfaction rates.”
Earlier this year, a Customer Survey on the PSC was published.  The survey, which looked at customer satisfaction around the processes and procedures involved in applying for a PSC, was undertaken independently on behalf of the Department by specialists in customer experience consultancy. Over 1,000 PSC holders, in terms of age and gender, were interviewed in December 2018.
The results showed that:
-          96% of PSC holders surveyed were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the process;
-          Almost 9 out of 10 (87%) agree that it is very useful that other Government service providers may be able to use the identity information already provided in obtaining the PSC so as to avoid the need to provide the same information again;
-          Almost 9 out of 10 (88%) of those surveyed felt that they either had access to the right level of information in respect of the SAFE/PSC process or had access to more than they needed;
-          Nearly 8 out of 10 people (77%) understand the requirement to retain personal information and do not mind that their documents are retained
Details of this survey are available here.
The DPC has indicated that it now intends to initiate enforcement proceedings. Given that these proceedings may fall to be adjudicated in Court it would be inappropriate to make any further comment beyond this.
The Report of the Data Protection Commission (DPC) on the Public Services Card is available here and the Department’s response and related correspondence can be accessed here.
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Last modified:17/09/2019