The Data Protection Commission (DPC) and the Department of Social Protection (DSP) have announced a settlement in their legal dispute over the use of data linked to the Public Services Card (PSC).
The data watchdog had served the department with an enforcement notice in relation to the card in late 2019, but the department then challenged the findings, and its appeal had been due in court earlier this week.
The DPC had objected to the State’s “blanket” retention of personal data linked to the cards, while it also found that people could not be compelled to use the PSC for access to other, non-welfare, State services.
This morning (10 December), however, both bodies announced that an agreement had been reached.
The department said that it and the DPC had agreed to work together on “the development and implementation of a programme of work in relation to data retention and transparency”.
The commission said that “significantly enhanced levels of information” would now be provided to citizens, to explain what personal data is processed, and how it is processed, when an individual applies for a PSC.
The data watchdog added that “further enhancements” would follow based on additional engagement between the parties.
Under the agreement, the PSC can still be used by other public bodies to authenticate people’s identity, but these bodies must provide at least one other option in cases where an individual needs to verify their identity before accessing a public service.
“In the absence of legislation making specific provision for this, other public-sector bodies cannot compel any individual to acquire a PSC as a pre-condition to the provision of access to public services,” the DPC said.
Retention of data
The watchdog also welcomed “significant adjustments” that are to be made to the department’s approach to the retention of applicants’ personal information.
It added that a system founded on the “blanket and indefinite retention” of all of the information linked to a PSC application “does not strike an appropriate balance between an applicant’s rights under data-protection law, and such other interests as the department seeks to protect”.
The commission is conducting a separate inquiry into the department’s use of biometric facial templates in the application of facial-matching software that is used when a person applies for a PSC.