Household Charge – A Data Protection Kerfuffle (Part 3)

So, in the interests of trying to figure out what the purpose for requesting the PPSN from persons registering for the Household Charge I took a look at the pdf forms that are available from the website.

Form HC12N sheds a little bit of light on this as, in Note A on the form, as it tells us that

PPSN (also known as RSI number) is unique to each individual and is used to distinguish between individuals with similar names or addresses.

So it is being used as a matching key, a unique identifier for citizens accessing public services. Which is what it is designed to be used for, under strict controls. The control set out in the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 require the PPSN to be used by Register Users for specific purposes. The details for the Department of the Environment’s use of  the PPSN can be found on the Department of Social Protection website.

Deduping data is one of the uses. But not for a Household Charge. For other schemes. Specifically New House and Thatching grants and the Rental Accomodation Scheme. All of which require transfers of data around the Dept of Environment and the Dept of Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners and Local Authorities. All of which is similar to what might need to happen to effectively administer a household tax.

But such a scheme isn’t actually listed as a use. It isn’t even noted as a planned future use. Therefore, the published records indicate that this might not be a lawful purpose (there is a caveat around the information on the DSP website regarding its completeness). And I note with dismay that the record for the Dept of the Environment was last updated in 2008. That’s a whole Government ago.

Open Data is a big buzz word in Government circles around the world. But Open Data starts with Openness ABOUT Data and being transparent enough about what will be done with data that citizens can trust. There are doubtless good reasons and valid purposes for the gathering of data. Government must ensure appropriate governance so that the information citizens can refer to about how their data is used can be reliably accessed and relied upon.

Mushroom Management styles are contrary to the spirit and intent of the Data Protection regulations.