Irish citizens will require biometric ID card when applying for passports, driver’s licenses

May 24, 2017 - 

The Irish government will make it mandatory for all citizens to show their public services card (PSC) when applying for a passport and driver’s licence, starting in autumn and 2018, respectively, according to a report by The Irish Times.

The identity card was initially launched in 2011 to social welfare recipients, and has since been issued to 2.3 million citizens.

The card is supported by a facial recognition database run by the Department of Social Protection.

“Given the increase in acts of terrorism over the last several years, every democratic country should be obliged to deploy the most robust means of authenticated travel across borders that it has available,” said Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.

He added that the current passport system was “very good” but that the SAFE registration process met the highest international standards.

“It is not, and will not be, compulsory to have a PSC,” he said. “However, government has an obligation to deploy the most robust means of online and physical identity verification possible to ensure that it is doing all it can to reduce fraud, personation and the risk of identity theft in the delivery/accessing of public services.”

All forms of data processing for the ID card and the online digital identity system is supported by legislation, Donohoe said.

There has also recently been a few legislative proposals which establish further obligations on public organizations that go beyond the requirements of the Data Protection Act, which protect the privacy rights of citizens.

Donohoe said that it was “essential that people know and trust that their data is fully protected”.

The government has a contract with a private supplier to manufacture the cards, working towards the goal of issuing three million cards by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, many privacy advocates are troubled by the news that the cards were to become compulsory for travel and driving documents.

Dr. TJ McIntyre, a UCD law lecturer and chairman of civil liberties group Digital Rights Ireland, said the expanded requirements were “very concerning”.

“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 country’s Road Safety Authority recently announced that all applicants taking the driver theory test would be required to have the card from June, as well as confirmed that all applicants for a driving licence will require the card from early next year.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.