Privacy campaigners have expressed concern that a plan by the Government to make all citizens applying for a passport and a driving licence first obtain a State-issued public services card represents the introduction of a “national ID card by stealth”.
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe confirmed that all passport applicants will be required to have a Public Services Card (PSC) from the autumn, although he insisted it "is not and will not be" compulsory for citizens to get the card.
The Road Safety Authority confirmed that all applicants for driving licences will be required to have the card from early next year.
TJ McIntyre, a UCD law lecturer and chairman of the civil liberties group Digital Rights Ireland, said he was concerned at the plans.
“It appears to be a policy of introducing a national ID card by stealth, in a way which appears to be illegal,” he said.
The card, rolled out as a pilot in 2011, has been issued to over 2.5 million Irish citizens – initially to those claiming welfare benefits. The database used to administer provision of the PSC draws on information from across government departments.
The Department of Social Protection says claimants who do not comply with the stringent registration process for issuing the card may have their payments, including child benefit or free travel, suspended.
Some of the cards have been issued by post, without a face-to-face registration process. The Government says these cards used citizens’ passport photographs from the Department of Foreign Affairs, with their consent.
The sharing of personal data by public bodies was the subject of a ruling by the Court of Justice in 2015 that citizens’ personal data may not be transferred between public bodies without them having been informed in advance.
Mr Donohoe said the Government took its duties with regard to data protection “very seriously” and that all processing of citizens’ data under the projects had a legislative underpinning.
A draft scheme of a new Data Sharing and Governance Bill, which the Minister said he would like to have passed this year before a new EU regulation takes effect next May, comes before the Oireachtas Committee on Finance again on Tuesday.