Feeds

Watchdog gets new powers for public sector data mining

Fraud 'fishing expeditions'

High performance access to file storage

The Audit Commission has published a revised code of practice which will govern its extended powers to obtain and search data from public sector bodies.

The commission has been given new rights to compel public bodies to provide it with data which it can then compare to other data sets for the detection of fraud.

Civil liberties activists have objected to the parts of the Serious Crime Act which awarded some agencies, such as the Audit Commission, the right to acquire and use more sets of data than previously.

Liberty said when the law was first published that it allows for previously illegal general trawls for information rather than searches specific to an investigation. "New measures include data matching powers which will allow electronic 'fishing expeditions' not based on suspicion or intelligence," said a Liberty statement.

The code, though, says that "the commission will only choose data to be matched where there is evidence of fraud or potential fraud".

Liberty policy director Gareth Crossman said investigations themselves were not a problem, but that his organisation had doubts about data matching as a technique. "Of course there is no problem with targeted investigations where there is intelligence about individual fraud. However, 'data matching' exercises are comparable to fishing expeditions where no suspicion is necessary before private details are electronically sifted."

The code allows the Audit Commission to compel almost any body which it audits to provide it with data which it can then compare with other data that it has from that organisation. It identifies disparities in the data and hopes to discover fraud in that way.

The commission's guidance says the Data Protection Act applies to it and that "wrongful disclosure of data obtained for the purposes of data matching by any person is a criminal offence".

The Serious Crime Act increased the penalties for wrongful disclosure, introducing the threat of imprisonment for the offence for the first time.

The new powers given to public authorities to perform data matching also for the first time allow them to perform comparisons with sets of data from the private sector, though it cannot compel banks and building societies to provide the data.

The commission has published the code and has invited comments on it in a consultation process due to close at the end of May. It said it hopes to put the finalised code to Parliament in July.

See: The Code

Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.