Thursday, 22 February 2018

Questions (215)

Michael McGrath


215. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her views on concerns that have been expressed regarding the privacy implications of section 5 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2017 in relation to the use of the public services card by certain bodies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [9035/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Only bodies specified in legislation and currently included in Schedule 5 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 (as amended) or their agents can ask for and use the Public Services Card (PSC).

The current proposal in Section 5 of the Social Welfare Bill does not change this. That protection will remain if the legislative proposal is adopted.

As the law currently stands, even if a card holder volunteers their PSC, a private sector organisation would be committing an offence by accepting it as they are not a “specified body”. Customer feedback is that they should be allowed to volunteer the card to non-specified bodies if it suits them to do so, for the purposes of ID verification such as when signing up to a utility company contract or opening an account with a financial institution. Customers often report that private companies insist on a State-issued photographic ID such as a Passport or Driver’s License which they might not have and which are costly. In contrast, the PSC is free of charge.

Therefore, the legislative proposal is that non-specified bodies that accept a PSC that is offered to them voluntarily by the holder should not be prosecuted or be at risk of prosecution. At the same time, such non-specified organisations should not be able to request or force a person to use their PSC - that would remain an offence. In other words, the volunteering of the card is the critical issue.

Furthermore, and for the sake of absolute clarity, this proposal in no way allows a private sector body to access the customer data on the card chip or on any government database - it would simply allow them to view/accept the card as a form of identity and to stop it being an offence for them to accept it.

This measure will be beneficial to holders of the PSC, most especially those who do not hold a driving licence or a passport. It is their identity and, as such, the holder should be allowed to volunteer it if they so choose, even in a commercial situation.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.