The Government has now 'rolled over completedly' in the row over the Public Services Card, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties says.
The State dropped their appeal against the ruling of the Data Protection Commissioner in 2019 that broad use of the card was illegal.
While initially designed for the social welfare system, officials had attempted to require people to use the card to apply for the likes of drivers' licences, passports, and certain State payments.
The Department of Social Protection has now acknowledged that specific legislation would need to be passed by the Government to do this.
Under an agreement reached with the data watchdog, the Department has conceded the State can't demand people use a PSC to access other public services.
As a result, another option must now also be provided if an individual has to verify their identity to access public services.
On The Hard Shoulder, Liam Herrick of the ICCL said the settlement announced today amounts to a major climbdown by the Government.
He observed: “The real story today is not about the PSC - it’s about Government. Today the case is being settled, and they’ve rolled over completely.
“The public is right to be concerned about surveillance and infringements on their privacy.
“This was implemented without a valid legal basis.
“The problem with this is it was about amalgamating all sorts of Government department information in one place."
Liam said the details revealed today about the HSE cyberattack show the dangers of keeping lots of sensitive data about people in one place.
He suggested a security breach can be “absolutely catastrophic” and end up in the sale of personal data on a massive scale.
However, he said other European countries have shown it is possible to digitise public services in a helpful way.
He explained: “The promise is that digital mechanisms can allow the mechanisms to access services more equally and easily.
"What happened with the Public Service Card… is that in trying to roll it out, they started cutting people off from public services because they didn’t have the PSC - even though they had other valid forms of identification.
“You had people like the passport office not accepting passports or drivers licences for people who wanted to renew their passports. It was an absurdity."
A separate investigation by the Commission into the use of facial recognition technology in the registration process linked to the PSC is continuing.