Govt databases ‘unnecessary and illegal’

By Ian Dunt

The vast majority of government databases are unnecessary and possibly illegal, a damning new report into ‘Database Britain’ has found.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust hired a team of leading academics, industry and privacy experts to look into government databases managing major public service functions.

The group found that over eight out of ten databases present serious dangers to privacy and should either be scrapped completely or face a major overhaul.

“This survey shows just how vast the database state has grown while your back was turned,” said Phil Booth, national coordinator of NO2ID.

“It threatens the privacy, personal security and freedom of everyone in the UK.

“Government now sees collecting and collating information about the people as a primary function: snooping is the first resort.”

Of the 46 databases considered by the report, the authors concluded only six are broadly acceptable in privacy terms, and more than ten should be scrapped entirely, including the ID card scheme, the centralisation and sharing of all health records by the NHS, and the ‘children’s databases’ – ContactPoint and the electronic Care Assessment Framework (eCAF).

“This damning report exposes how the government’s obsession with hoarding our personal information has turned Britain into a database state,” Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said.

“In their desperation to track our every move, ministers have created a glut of databases, many of which are quite simply illegal.”

The think tank suggests government is systematically failing to consider privacy issues in its data storage and sharing policies.

“This isn’t merely a failure of government; it is a serious indictment of our whole political system,” said Alexandra Runswick, deputy director of Unlock Democracy.

“The ‘Database State’ has been allowed to grow with little parliamentary oversight. The same problems of lost data and budgets spiralling out of control happen time and again and the lessons aren’t being learnt.”