In Ireland: the secure digital identity might include facial recognition

Ireland is setting up a secure digital identity system – by means of a card – allowing access to public services: the Public Services Card (PSC). Like ALICEM in France, this system aims to offer a secure digital identity to citizens without multiplying authentication procedures. This, card will contain a multitude of personal data and, according to the Irish Examiner, the data protection policy for PSC has been amended on February 10th, 2020 to include the possibility of processing biometric data.

This amendment will allow the creation of a centralized database gathering information on Irish citizens, including photos. According again to the Irish Examiner, this change should bring the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection’s privacy policies into line with the reality of their data processing. While there is currently no further clarification of processing details, this change indicates that facial recognition is being considered for the new system.

In another article, the Irish Times highlights the arguments of the opponents of the system. They denounce the absence of a specific legislative provision and express their doubts concerning the proportionality of the processing. This amendment takes place in a context of opposition between the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Data Protection Commissioner. The Commissioner has indeed submitted a very critical report on the implications of the Public Services Card for data protection which is now challenged in court by the Departement of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. After being delayed several times, the court decision – which is expected in March – will certainly bring the issue back to the forefront.


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