Feeds

Watchdog gets new powers for public sector data mining

Fraud 'fishing expeditions'

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

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.

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.