Data Protection Commission

Case Study 10

Aer Rianta- Inappropriate Use of the Personal Public Service Number (PPSN)

My office received complaints from a number of taxi drivers who had been operating from Dublin Airport for many of years. Their complaints related to the Application Form issued by Aer Rianta for a permit to operate a taxi service from Dublin Airport, which asked interalia for the applicants' Personal Public Service Number (PPSN).

I contacted Aer Rianta and informed it that only public bodies that are designated under the Social Welfare Acts may request a person's PPSN. As Aer Rianta are not a specified body under the Social Welfare Acts, they therefore had no authority to seek the PPSN. Indeed, it is an offence under the Acts to do so. Aer Rianta immediately agreed to omit the request for the PPSN from their form.

I am particularly concerned to ensure that only those bodies that are specifically authorised by the Social Welfare Acts to use the PPSN do so as otherwise it could be used as a national identity number by the "backdoor". I liaised with the Department of Social and Family Affairs on this matter and the code of conduct and the publicity campaign they initiated during 2002 should bring clarity to the circumstances where the PPSN can and cannot be used. In Appendix 3 I refer to this general area in greater detail.