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Data Protection Registrar on UK data swapping plans

Responds to digital ID card fears

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The Information Commissioner Elizabeth France – formerly the Data Protection Registrar says data swapping proposals won't require major changes to existing DP legislation.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the UK government is to permit data exchanges between government agencies. New legislation will be introduced in the form of a 'Data Sharing and Privacy Bill' allowing Whitehall departments to pool departments individual silos of personal data, the Telegraph reports here.

According to the report, the think tank responsible for the proposals has considered and rejected a central unique identifier for citizens - the equivalent of a digital identity card.

France was a member of the Cabinet Office advisory group on the forthcoming legislation and said the Telegraph report contained speculation.

"You don't increase consumer confidence by reducing the information available," she told The Register. "It recognizes the dual objectives of privacy and data sharing and suggests ways those might be achieved."

"Citizens can already check what personal data is held about them, who's holding it and how they are processing it - that's a fundamental of the Data Protection Act. New legislation can't do anything to alter that. The Act will always require holders to notify what sharing is taking place."

She denied that UK Data Protection Legislation would need to be revised. Some Whitehall departments have their own frameworks governing the extent of data sharing, such as the Inland Revenue. But the same safeguards would apply to the Bureaucratic panopticon envisaged in the new bill.

"No doubt one needs to revisit the basis for the collection of citizen data - some citizens would like data to be shared, the classic example being 'Do I have to tell everyone I've moved house?' But citizens must know what is being held, and it must completely transparent."

"Departments aren't allowed to exchange now, and are usually so incompetent they couldn't do it anyway," lawyer Donald Ramsbottom told us.

He thinks major changes to existing Data Protection legislation are inevitable, and condemned the use of secondary legislation as a vehicle for the proposals.

"Secondary legislation is where an act spells out what the Government wants to achieve, but doesn't say how it's going to be achieved. The minister or secretary of state will do that later, typically by statutory instrument, and that's usually a rubber stamp job."

Related Link

The Daily Telegraph: Whitehall plans new checks on citizens

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