Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 28 September 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport
Scrutiny of EU Legislative Proposals
I thank the speakers. It has been a most informative morning. We are in the process of trying to put together our cybersecurity network in Ireland. We have an abysmal system in place with an acting director in place and no director appointed.. We are in a pretty sorry state for a country that hosts some of the largest information technology companies in the world. Are we putting the cart before the horse by talking about digital wallets when we are not in a position to guarantee those data will be safe? The Minister of State, Deputy Smyth, told us last week that every Minister's telephone was encrypted and yet a Minister's telephone was in someway compromised. We are not 100% how, but it was compromised. I am excited by what Mr. Lowry is talking about. I have been in information technology for most of my working life. We are talking about a huge step forward and we can all agree the benefits are incredible. However, the architecture of the entire infrastructure will be vitally important. We cannot have a single server or location managing all these data.
Data is going to have to be distributed. You can imagine what would happen if I had to rely on my medical records, for example, being available through this information system. If I was in Spain, for example, and there was a power outage or something like that in Dublin, then I could find myself in serious trouble.
With the best will in the world, the sharing of data across different sectors, particularly the public service, is an issue. One of my colleagues has mentioned travelling to Spain and opening a bank account there. We have seen how successful the Criminal Assets Bureau has been at identifying people who are in receipt of social welfare and who are driving around in Bentley cars. Those cars were repossessed to the benefit of the State. Can we rest assured that this type of data would not be shared across Departments? I refer, for example, to the Department of Social Protection sharing data with the Revenue Commissioners? While I see huge benefits in being able to share such information, the rights of citizens have to be put first.
It was stated that most countries in Europe have a citizen's identity card. A digital identity would subvent the identity card or allow us to have digital IDs on our telephones. Will the latter give rise to a constitutional issue for Ireland?
Finally, I am sure that serious legislation will be required to get this scheme up and running. It is a really exciting step forward and will provide citizens with a huge amount of flexibility as regards their data. Do the witnesses agree that the scheme poses serious loopholes and risks? Most of my questions are for Mr. Lowry.