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Ireland planning to introduce national identity cards by stealth, with no debate and unclear privacy safeguards

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National identity cards are an emotive topic. In the UK, the ID card debate raged for years before and after the authorities there passed a law in 2006 to introduce them. Five years later, a change of government saw the law being repealed as a result of widespread public concerns. The Irish government seems to be adopting a different approach. It is introducing ID cards for its population while denying that it is doing so, perhaps in an attempt to dodge the heated arguments that raged in the UK.

Ireland’s ID card plans are hidden within the recently-published eGovernment Strategy 2017-2020, which is described in typical government-speak as follows:

“The Strategy takes note of the contextual changes of the last few years such as technology innovation, a more joined-up Civil Service and developments across the EC, particularly GDPR [the new EU privacy laws], the eGovernment Action Plan and the Digital Single Market.”

Later on in the document, the issue of how the Irish government will manage identity is discussed briefly:

“We will develop our existing e-ID capability – we recognise the value of eIDs as a means to protecting our people and our businesses against fraud; improving the overall user experience, avoiding the requirement for the public to provide the same information to Government numerous times; and helping Public Service fully align with Data Protection principles and legislation. The e-ID and the Digital Services Gateway will be the means for single sign-on/authentication and verification/update of general information (e.g. simple address information), using the “tell us once” principle.”

It is only in Annex B of the strategy that the plans to introduce what turns out to be an ID card are mentioned:

“the Public Services Card (PSC) infrastructure is the Government’s standard identity verification scheme, which

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