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A conservative think tank has proposed an alternative model for managing personal data used in public services.

It's ours: Why we, not government, must own our data, published by the Centre for Policy Studies and written by Liam Maxwell, says people should be able to choose a repository for their personal data and make it available to public bodies as they desire.

The arrangements would be voluntary, with the state remaining as the default holder of personal data for those who do not opt out; but it would not apply to matters of national security or law and order.

The report highlights the concept of vendor relationship management (VRM), which it says provides benefits to customers by presenting them with tools to manage distribute their data with their consent. It claims that this contrasts with the approach underlying the Transformational Government strategy, in which government takes centralised control of people's data.

As an example, it cites the possibility of using services such as Microsoft HealthVault or Google Health as electronic health records rather than the Care Record Summary, currently being developed under the NHS National Programme for IT. It says this would reduce the costs imposed on taxpayers and give users more control over their details.

Such an approach would require all public services to use open data standards to ensure that data can be easily and securely transferred from one data provider to another. The report likes this to the way that customers can transfer their accounts from one bank to another.

It claims that the benefits would include savings of up to 50 per cent of government IT expenditure, increased data security and privacy, and less intrusion by the state. It could also lay the ground for the reform of public services.

Maxwell said the approach does not require huge investment in the creation of untested new technology, and would reverse "the government's attempt to nationalise data by giving control back to those who should own it: us".

He told GC News: "If you allow people to own their data it will free up so much more of the potential for more flexible and efficient systems, and free up more cost. Government has not focused enough on value for money."

This article was originally published at Kable.

Kable's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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