By Hedwig Hegtermans
I am in general quite protective of my data and often do not give others permission to use it. But this is not like opening an email account or buying something online. I really have no choice but to use it.
So what to do? It would help if I knew who these organisations are. After all, we're talking about very personal information here: passport details, face scanning, a photo, our national insurance number, and whatever extra evidence we decide to include, like bank or council tax statements.
I was also told that I didn't need to worry as the Home Office is GDPR compliant. This is not particularly reassuring, because the GDPR has an exemption clause for data relating to immigration control. The help line wasn't aware of this. They tried to reassure me that the Home Office only wanted to share the data with government-related organisations to check whether there is any reason to refuse applications. Basically they're suggesting that it's there for cross referencing on criminal records. But when EU migrant pressure group the3million used freedom of information to ask exactly who would have access to this data, the Home Office refused the request.
I decided to apply for settled status anyway, because I want to be able to become a British citizen as soon as possible and this seems the safest route. Throughout the application process I was kindly reminded that the Home Office is GDPR compliant with links to let me check this is the case.
I decided to only give them the least sensitive information I could, so I went through my old energy bills and used them as evidence. There's still the passport scan of course, but at least this way I can manage the risk a bit.
Still I feel uneasy about giving permission for anyone in the Home Office, now and in the future, to share all this personal data. I know people who for this very reason are not yet applying for settled status. But in the end we'll all be forced to agree, because that's the only way we can continue to live in the UK legally. It's tantamount to blackmail.
Hedwig Hegtermans is a Dutch citizen living in the UK since 2001. She campaigns with the3million for the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens in Europe. You can follow her here.
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