Privacy outcry as govt changes data sharing rules

Government agencies will be given vastly increased access to British citizen’s personal details under a new law.

Under the change, government agencies would be able to exchange information without any of the current safeguards.

The move could be rushed through parliament without a vote, after it was referred to in the coroners and justice bill, included in the Queen’s Speech yesterday.

Public bodies currently need primary legislation to transfer data between agencies, but the plan would allow the use of secondary legislation without a full vote by MPs, effectively allowing ministers to sidestep data protection rules.

Organisation which could be affected include the police, NHS trusts, local councils, the Inland Revenue, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, education authorities, the Department for Work and Pensions and other ministries.

Privacy campaigners are in uproar over the move, with warnings that thousands of unaccountable civil servants would be able to freely exchange people’s personal data.

There is also criticism of the manner in which the government is making the change, with accusations of introducing a surveillance state ‘by stealth’.

“Any draft order would require parliamentary approval and a privacy impact assessment,” a ministry of justice spokesman said.

“Additionally, the Information Commissioner would have been invited to comment on the proposals.
This will ensure any potential privacy issues and risks are identified and examined.

“The power will be exercised only in circumstances where the sharing of the information is in the public interest and proportionate to the impact on any person adversely affected by it.”