Thousands of immigrants willing to pay for slots due to delays in formal system
Unofficial sites that are processing personal information to secure visa renewal appointments for immigrants in Ireland have defended their use of personal data and say they are not violating GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).
Numerous Facebook pages, websites and phone apps have appeared in recent years offering foreign nationals the chance to skip the queue in applying for an appointment with the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service for a price of up to €40.
These operators started appearing after an online visa-renewal system was introduced in September 2016. The sites block-book slots and sell them off at a profit to immigrants desperate to secure an appointment before their visa expires.
The Department of Justice initially responded to reports of block-booking by internet bot programmes by introducing software changes to the system. In December 2018, it confirmed that the current online system would be replaced this year.
Meanwhile, thousands of people are registering personal information, including passport details, dates of birth and phone numbers through sites that could leave their sensitive data at risk of being harvested and further disseminated without users’ permission. Those unwilling to go down the informal route continue to face long delays.
Asked to comment on the use of personal information by these sites, the office of the Data Protection Commission warned that organisations processing personal data must ensure they collect only “the minimum amount of personal data necessary to conduct their business”, that the data kept is accurate and that an “appropriate retention period” is in place to ensure the information is not kept any longer than is necessary.