Feeds

Surveying anonymity and the public good

Our survey shows researchers and the public disagree

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail have been stirring up shock and horror at the idea that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are planning to siphon off data from sources that include "visits to A&E departments, government surveys and the reporting of crimes to police" and place it on a "huge 'Lifestyle Database'".

Well: not quite. As the Mail later admits, "it will not be possible to identify individuals from the information on the database": but even that probably over-states the case. The database in question is an aggregated data system that El Reg was alerted to some months back.

We investigated it then and found it was little more than an online query tool designed to support the EHRC’s Equality Measurement Framework. The tool would allow researchers to pull down statistics on 10 domains of equality – such as life, health, productive activities, education, employment, etc. – broken down by group.

Although the Mail focusses on the fact that the database will attempt to hold data on sexual orientation and identity, a spokesman for the project told El Reg today that general reluctance to answer questions about sexuality meant that this tool would be most useful in respect of disability, gender and age.

So bearing in mind the caveats about identifiability expressed above, this base will contain no individual records and it is unlikely that any individual will be identifiable through it: however, data will be collected without direct consent.

In the end, there is no scandal here: just a mindset on the part of some officials that if the end is for the public good, then it doesn’t matter if the rules around data collection get slightly bent. That would appear to be joined, at the lower levels of government, by a poor understanding of the letter of the law when it comes to Data Protection. The same departments that are so obstructive when it comes to dishing out information are rather less well informed as to the scope of the Act when it comes to identifiability.

According to the Tories, they intend to shake up the lazy assumptions that public services are entitled to use our data just because they can, and require all such uses in future to be tested according to necessity. Whether anything will change – or whether the researchers will continue to win the day - remains to be seen. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
We need less U.S. in our WWW – Euro digital chief Steelie Neelie
EC moves to shift status quo at Internet Governance Forum
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?