Ireland's Department of Employment facing biometric data probe
12 August 2019 11:35 GMT

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in Ireland faces the prospect of becoming the first public body to be fined under data protection laws.

Last year the DPC launched an investigation into the department, which holds the largest data set on the Irish population, after senior officials changed an online declaration that said it collected “biometric data”, reported the Times.

A draft Data Protection Commission (DPC) report indicated its officials interfered with the department’s own data protection officer.

In January, the department refused to release information regarding the Data Protection Commission’s investigation into the public services card, in part because it would be “contrary to the public interest”.

Then in August, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Philip Alston has expressed concerns related to Ireland's biometric identification card and privacy, The Canary reports.

The cards were created in 2011 and have recently taken on expanded use that Alston sees becoming a problem in terms of data sharing and maintaining privacy. "We have no information as to what state agencies will be able to gain access to the biometric information stored on the card," Alston said, adding that the card has "the potential to really, very significantly, transform your relations with government and certainly your ability to maintain any shred of privacy."