A UN representative has called out the Irish government’s introduction of an ID card which contains biometric information. UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty Prof Philip Alston criticised the roll-out of the Public Services Card (PSC), saying the government introduced the card “without any transparency of public debate”.
He was speaking in Dublin at a conference organised by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) when he made the comments.
“What are the intentions of the government?”
The card, which the government introduced in 2011, was initially for people getting social welfare payments. But that role has now been expanded to include a number of other areas where it’s apparently required. According to a government website, the card:
establishes and fully authenticates your identity, assisting you in accessing a range of public services in an easy and safe manner. Your identity is fully authenticated when it is issued so you do not have to give the same information to multiple organisations.
As of 2018, the government had issued the card to roughly 2.5 million people.
But Alston asked “what are the intentions of the government?” in creating the card. He argued that governments generally “find it very difficult to resist the temptation to use” data gathered about their citizens. He also highlighted the fact that:
we have no information as to what state agencies will be able to gain access to the biometric information stored on the card.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
does have at least the potential to really, very significantly, transform your relations with government and certainly your ability to maintain any shred of privacy.
The ICCL said the “government is centralising biometric information in a database”. Given this, there’s a risk that the data will be “vulnerable to misuse, attacks, and leaks”. And it went on to declare that the PSC is “probably illegal under EU law”.
Global state surveillance
Governments across the world have been surveilling their populations in various ways for years. Edward Snowden’s leaks showed how the US government is spying on much of the world. And it’s helped by the other members of the so-called Five Eyes alliance: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.
And on 29 July, the UK High Court ruled against a human rights organisation that challenged the government’s surveillance powers. Liberty argued that the Investigatory Powers Act (aka the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’) was breaching people’s human rights. But the High Court disagreed and rejected Liberty’s argument.
With this in mind, the Irish government is not unique. Maybe it’s only trying to play catch-up with the rest of the world. But that’s no excuse. Because giving governments access to biometric data is a privacy disaster waiting to happen. And that includes the Irish government and its push to ID the entire country.
Featured image via Pixabay – Gerd Altmanm
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?