independent

Saturday 18 November 2017

'Big Brother' Services Card is Irish (EU) Nanny State on its uppers

By david looby

Concern has been raised about Government motives behind Public Services Cards.
Concern has been raised about Government motives behind Public Services Cards.

HAVE you got a text message or letter calling on you to get an identity card?

Well if not, it's most likely only a matter of time. The Government are on their uppers once again as the suits in Europe demand that 3 million of us have the Public Services Cards by the end of the year.

Almost 2.8 million Irish people already have the cards which are only obtained after a face-to-face registration process at your nearest town or city SAFE (Standard Authentication Framework Environment) building. So far, so SAFE. Registration is only the first step to getting the card, which looks like the new driver's licences. The back of the card holds your PPS number and a card number. It also holds a magnetic stripe to enable social welfare payments such as pensions to be collected at post offices.

Introduced in 2013, the government insists these are not national identity cards, like those used in other countries.

I remember hearing horror stories when I lived in America of people being arrested by armed police for not having ID and vividly recall teenage nights of being stopped by bouncers at nightclub doors and being refused because of the lack of ID, so ID talk still gives me the heeby-jeebies.

Introducing change is never easy but bungling Government pr officials have provided fuel for the fire of conspiracy theorists by insisting that the card is not compulsory ('but is mandatory'?!) when people need it to access their social welfare and free travel, while it will soon be needed for all passport and driving licence applications, including renewals.

Information from the cards can be shared between 50 Government departments, although it remains unclear if the Government did their homework on introducing them, based on the most recent Data Protection legislation.

The cards have sparked controversy as a woman in her 70s had had her State pension cut off because she refused to register for the card. She said she had felt 'bullied' by officials. The total pension withheld is worth about €13,000 over 18 months.

Data protection experts have expressed concern that the cards will become national identity cards. Concerns were raised that biometric data could be held on them, although Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty said the Government does not intend to increase the amount of information about citizens stored on the PSC in the future. She said a person's photograph, signature, PPS number and an expiry date are on the card, saying information on the chip, which included the 'standard identity set which we have always used' and includes date of birth, place of birth, gender, nationality, and if applicable, a former surname. She said the information is encrypted and cannot be accessed by hackers.

Her predecessor Joan Burton said the cards were in use as they contain a number of security elements to make them difficult to forge, including a photo and computer chip. She said the use of technology would help reduce the cost of social welfare fraud.

'Unfortunately, one of the problems with social welfare fraud is people pretending to be someone else and claiming payments.'

The Data Protection Commissioner has rightly said there is a 'pressing need for updated, clearer and more detailed information' to be communicated to the public regarding the card.

Wexford People

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