This spring will see households and businesses across Longford receive unique postcodes as part of the rolling-out of the new nationwide Eircode system.
Costing €27 million to implement, Eircode is designed to provide each home and commercial premises with its own unique identification code, unlike post codes in other countries which only identify localised areas. The Government claims this should make deliveries of mail and services easier, as well as allowing emergency services to accurately pinpoint the location of a call-out.
Each Eircode will consist of seven characters. The first three will comprise the ‘routing key’, or area code, which will benefit postal and logistics services when sorting mail. The remaining four characters will be a unique identifier for the property, drawn from a “carefully selected” set of letters and numbers.
At a sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications last November, Liam Duggan of Capita Ireland, the company tasked with developing Eircode, said that, “There’s no other country in the world that uses a unique identifier postcode at this time. It’s a world first.”
Also appearing before the committee was Patricia Cronin, Eircode’s programme manager at the Department of Communications, who explained that the purpose of unique identifier codes for each property was to avoid “postcode discrimination and ghettos”, as well as issues with non-unique addresses.
Ms Cronin also told the committee that, “We have spoken to the National Consumer Agency, logistics companies and Digital Rights Ireland, with which we have had an in-depth conversation to see if there is anything in the proposal that might be considered to have an impact on anyone’s privacy”, and added that “Broadly, they are satisfied with what we are doing.”
However, Digital Rights Ireland has since objected to this assertion, and in a letter to the Minister for Energy, Communications and Natural Resources, Alex White TD, Antóin Ó Lachtnáin of Digital Rights Ireland made it clear the organisation was “not at all satisfied” with Eircode’s design.
“Our view is that you are taking a very dangerous and needless step into the unknown by going ahead with the code as currently proposed,” he wrote. “We gave details of an immediate privacy problem that will present itself immediately after launch. We warned that the mitigating measures that the Department is proposing would not really help, and might even be a distraction from other critical project issues.
“We warned that the legal protections of the data protection regime would be largely unenforceable in the context of global Internet advertising networks.
He added that, “Simple changes would bring Eircode into line with international best practice and would greatly alleviate the privacy concerns”.
Last week the Department of Communications clarified that Ms Cronin did not attribute views on privacy to any particular organisation, and did not state that she discussed data protection with the National Consumer Agency when she appeared before the Oireachtas committee.
Separately, Emergency Services personnel have also expressed concerns about Eircode ahead of its introduction.
“Because Eircode does not identify small local areas, it will be of little benefit for the large number of callouts to road traffic accidents and other emergencies that are along roads and in other industrial and transport infrastructure rather than inside buildings,” said the Chairman of the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association, John Kidd.
“Our colleagues in Northern Ireland are used to postcodes that can be learned and are predictable so that they can find localities easily from memory. Eircode does not offer that capability and it will not be visible on street signs to help the public raise the alarm when they are in difficulty.”