Lack of fadas on student leap cards spark data protection concerns

Fadas absent on leap cards due to “technical limitations”

Students have expressed dismay at the lack of fadas on leap cards as the National Transport Authority (NTA) has come under criticism in recent days for the discrepancy, which may be classed as a data protection breach.

Leap cards, including student leap cards, do not display any fadas in the user’s name, sparking discontent among leap card holders.

In accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in 2018, organisations are required to ensure data is accurate and kept up to date as necessary.

Speaking to Trinity News, Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Leas-Uachtarán don Gaeilge, Aoife Ní Dhéisigh, outlined: “It is completely unacceptable that the current leap card, inclusive of the student leap card system doesn’t recognise the fada.”

“Quite simply, when you remove a fada, you change the meaning of a word – this isn’t anyone being pedantic about fonts or format. For instance, briste means broken, while bríste means trousers,” Ní Dhéisigh explained.

“There is no excuse for this failure, and lack of respect towards the Irish language,” Ní Dhéisigh continued.

Correspondence released between Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, and NTA Chief Executive, Anne Graham, revealed the NTA attributes the lack of fadas on leap cards to technical reasons.

Ross complained to the NTA on behalf of a constituent’s son who wanted his name spelt correctly on his card. Responding to Ross, Graham stated: “We regret that the leap card system cannot currently print characters such as fada signs or accents due to a technical limitation.”

She continued to note that introducing fadas to leap cards is “something we would hope to address at a suitable opportunity in the future”.

Speaking to Trinity News, Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) Oifigeach na Gaeilge, Cúnla Morris, outlined: “It’s something that’s always frustrated me that I can’t write my name properly on various forms, including leap cards.”

“Not only is it disrespectful to my language, but as a trans person, it is disrespectful to my chosen name. People of all languages, genders, etc., have a right to have their name written correctly on documents,” continued Morris.

When applying for a new student leap card this year, Morris put their name on the application form as “Cunla With A Fada Morris”, which was accepted by the system and is now printed on Morris’ card.

The student leap card system came under scrutiny last August when University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) raised concerns of “serious data protections flaws”.

An online application form allows students to place an application for their student leap card online and collect it from a leap card agent at a later time, with each application being assigned a six-digit code. When a leap card agent searched for a specific application, numerous applications which matched with numbers already inputted would be presented on screen, reducing as the full code was entered.

Leap card staff could thus view personal details of any application with a similar number to that which they were searching for, including email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and home addresses. UCDSU initially declined to sign a data processing agreement to provide student leap cards on campus as UCDSU President, Barry Murphy, identified the possibility that the system could be “abused to allow individuals inappropriately access students’ details”.

The NTA responded to UCDSU’s concerns to indicate that the system would be changed to protect students’ data.

Lauren Boland

Lauren Boland was the Editor of the 67th volume of Trinity News. She is an English Literature and Sociology graduate and previously served as Deputy Editor, News Editor and Assistant News Editor.