UK Liberty

Data sharing in government

Posted in database state, surveillance society by ukliberty on December 4, 2008


The Coroners and Justice Bill, to be announced in today’s Queen’s Speech and expected to be rushed through First Reading in the Commons this Friday, will contain extraordinary new data-sharing powers [1], which could be exercised by regulation without Parliamentary debate.

NO2ID [2] points out that these powers would allow the government effectively to set aside not just the Data Protection Act and data protection principles when it suits, but the much more fundamental protections of Articles 6 and 8 of the ECHR/HRA [3], of common law confidentiality, and ofultra vires. This goes far beyond data protection, into administrative and constitutional law. It is a Bill to build the database state, concealed under a misleading name.

The Ministry of Justice will be tacking onto the Coroners and Justice Bill powers it decided to adopt from the Thomas/Walport Information Sharing Review [4]. In public statements [5], these are presented as more powers and funding for the Information Commissioner and more access to personal medical data for commercial and academic researchers. To a more select audience, Jack Straw highlighted new ‘fast track’ data-sharing powers which he said will “simplify the data protection framework and remove any unnecessary obstacles to data sharing” [6].

Phil Booth, NO2ID National Coordinator said:

“Rather than protecting our personal information, as it should be, the government is cutting away safeguards for its own data-trafficking convenience. This is a Bill to smash the rule of law and build the database state in its place.

“Burying sweeping constitutional change in obscure Bills is an appalling approach. Having proved – and admitted – they cannot be trusted to look after our secrets, they are still determined to steal what privacy we have left. Parliament needs to wake up before it has no say any more.”

NO2ID, Liberty and others have already commented [7] on sweeping powers in the proposed – and still only partially-drafted – Immigration and Citizenship Bill, also announced today, that will affect every British citizen. These include the requirement to produce official ID on demand that would make ID cards (or your passport) effectively compulsory to carry; the compulsory registering and reporting of hotel and B&B guests; employment checks which make Home Office systems the arbiter of everyone’s right to work.

Phil Booth, NO2ID National Coordinator said:

“This Bill to ‘simplify immigration’ will affect everyone. It even changes what it means to be British. Clearly the Home Office already thinks of citizens as suspects; this law would make it so.”

Please see that page for more details.

See also the article, The Big Brother State – by Stealth in the Independent.


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