Thursday, August 24, 2006

Big Brother wants all of your personal data..!

According to a report in today's Guardian, the government is preparing to overturn a fundamental principle of data protection. Scheduled for the week beginning September 11th, ministers will announce that public bodies can assume they are free to share citizens' personal data with other arms of the state, so long as it is in the "public interest". Ministers claim that when someone moves house, for example, all they would need to do is register the change online once with their local authority's "one stop shop". It changes its own records, central government, electoral register, DVLA and Inland Revenue.

Presently, public bodies have to find a legal justification each time they want to share data about individuals.

As Simon Davies from Privacy International argues: "Functional separation between departments is an important principle of justice and accountability".

Under the Data Protection Act: "personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes". And this new policy contravenes this basic principle of the Data Protection Act. But it is all in the so-called "public interest".....

Who views the data? Who defines "public interest"? What if the information they hold on you is false and inaccurate is then passed on to another department? Where is the accountability? What about consent?
Ministers have stayed rather silent when confronted with these kind of questions.

As John Wadham from Liberty (2002) argued regarding data sharing: "It's a basic principle of data protection that personal information that we give for one purpose should not then be used for another purpose without our consent. This is particularly important since we often have no choice about giving government the information in the first place - on tax returns, to receive benefits, to drive, or to obtain a passport."

New Labour: continuing erosion of civil liberties....