UK Liberty

Coroners and Justice Bill data sharing provisions

On Monday there will be the Second Reading of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

What might receive very little attention in this controversial* 232 page Bill are the data sharing provisions, in Part 8, clauses 151 – 154.  NO2ID explains:

NO2ID has been warning since 2006/7 about the stated intentions of government “to overcome current barriers to information sharing within the public sector” [1]. Now the Ministry of Justice has launched an extraordinary coup. It is about to convert the Data Protection Act into its exact opposite, a means for any government department to obtain and use any information however it likes.

Hidden in the new Coroners and Justice Bill [2] is one clause (cl.152) amending the Data Protection Act. It would allow ministers to make ‘Information Sharing Orders’, that can alter any Act of Parliament and cancel all rules of confidentiality in order to use information obtained for one purpose to be used for another.

This single clause is as grave a threat to privacy as the entire ID Scheme. Combine it with the index to your life formed by the planned National Identity Register [3] and everything recorded about you anywhere could be accessible to any official body.

The Database State is now a direct threat not a theory.

Quite apart from the powers in the Identity Cards Act, if Information Sharing Orders come to pass, they could (for example) immediately be used to suck up material such as tax records or electoral registers to build an early version of the National Identity Register. But the powers apply to any information, not just official information. They would permit data trafficking between government agencies and private companies – your medical records are firmly in their sights – and even with foreign governments.

Please write to your MP as a matter of great urgency and urge him or her to oppose these provisions.

They are not only objectionable in themselves but they have been tagged on to a very lengthy law and order bill that they have nothing to do with.  The reason for doing so is so that they will receive little to no Parliamentary scrutiny.  It is a really shabby way of going about things.

Some people will ask, “why does this matter?”

A paper on Patient Confidentiality and Central Databases by Professor Ross Anderson is handy here in terms of examples:

At present, a policeman who wants to see a suspect’s records has to locate the GP, get a Crown Court judge to sign a PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence) production order, then take it round to the surgery. This is rare at present. But once records are stored in a few server farms, life will become a lot easier for the policeman too.

This may be a real issue in drug and alcohol treatment; a judge could find it difficult to refuse the police access to all medical records in its region that contain admissions of drug use, as this is ‘actual evidence’ of crime; and ministers have just announced that that it will be a priority ‘to ensure that families affected by substance misuse are identified earlier’.

The confidentiality of patients who admit to under-age sexual intercourse may raise similar issues. Third, there’s mission creep. There are many plans in Whitehall to make use of health data once they are conveniently available – education officials want to identify children with welfare issues, while the Home Office has a system, ONSET, which tries to predict which children will offend. Both plan to make extensive use of health data – as described in the report to the Information Commissioner.

Also see Lee Griffin, SpyBlog, Justice, Privacy International, David Mery, and this thread.

* remember the inquests without juries and specially appointed  coroners?


3 Responses

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  1. David Mery said, on January 24, 2009 at 2:09 am

    Also see Justice:

    br -d

  2. ukliberty said, on January 26, 2009 at 11:22 am

    thanks David

  3. Why bother with labels? « UK Liberty said, on February 4, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    […] the minutiae of our lives, the records to be shared as the government sees fit. There are two recent developments in particular that for many symbolise the drift towards […]

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