Additional Information on Public Services Card – 29th August 2017

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Photography and the Public Services Card:

The Department can confirm that it has never piloted or used facial image scanning cameras in its local offices and has no intention of so doing.  Additionally, the Department does not and has no plans to collect fingerprints.  Finally, there are no security passwords or biometric facial scans held electronically on the PSC.  Any of these would require primary legislation and the accompanying public debate. 

SAFE 2 registration requires a photo of the customer. This photo is run through software to check against other photos that have been taken during other SAFE 2 registrations.  The purpose is to detect and/or prevent duplicate registrations.

The photograph is a part of the Public Service Identity (PSI).  Section 262 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, 2005 (as amended) provides for the PSI including its use and sharing.  Sharing of the PSI is restricted to public service bodies specified in law or their agents. It can only be used by a specified body in relation to authenticating an individual with whom it have a transaction and in performing its public functions insofar as those func­tions relate to the person concerned.

Legislation and the PSC:

The Department of Social Protection would like to restate that the use of the identity verification processes used by the Department and the Public Services Card (PSC) are underpinned by legislation as set out in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended).  This legislation limits the usage of the PSC to specified public bodies only.

Section 247C(3) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005, as amended, specifies the manner in which the Minister may be satisfied as to a person’s identity. In effect this Section describes the process for registering a person’s identity – this is the SAFE 2 registration process.  A PSC is issued to a person who is SAFE 2 registered in accordance with Section 263 of the Act.  It is a token which proves that a person has had their identity verified to a substantial level of assurance in accordance with the SAFE 2 standard.

Is the PSC a National ID card?

The Public Services Card is not a national identity card. The Public Service Card is a card for accessing public services only.

The Public Services Card does not have any of the typical characteristics of a national identity card in that –

1)   It is not compulsory or mandatory for individuals to hold or carry a Public Services Card. There is no law in Ireland requiring a person to carry any form of ID card (other than a driving licence when driving).

2)   You are not required by law to provide it to a member of the police force at their request.  An Garda Síochána is specifically precluded from requesting an individual to produce a PSC as proof of identity. It is an offence for an organisation or a member of an organisation that is not a specified body in the Act to request the PSC.  An Garda Síochána is not a specified body (except in respect of its own members).  This deliberate exclusion is a clear signal as to the purpose of the PSC.

3)   Bodies not specified in the legislation in either the public or private sector may not request the PSC or may not be required to use it in any transactions.

The Public Services Card is exactly that – a card is designed for the purpose of safely, securely and efficiently providing public services. 
For further information on the Public Services Card please see our previous statement here


Department of Social Protection

29th August 2017

Last modified:29/08/2017