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Citizens rail against government data sharing

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A new poll shows that Britons are becoming increasingly concerned about the type of personal information held by the government.

Just under two thirds of respondents said they are against the government centralising information about citizens so it can be shared between different government departments.

The 'State of the Nation' poll carried out for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, for which ICM surveyed 2,288 people face to face, was released on 20 February 2010.

The poll found that 61% of those surveyed believe police should not be allowed to keep a person's DNA profile if they have not been charged with an offence, compared to 45% in a similar survey by the trust in 2006.

More than half of those polled oppose recent government proposals to retain a person's DNA profile for six years if the person has not committed an offence. However, 92% said if a person is convicted of a serious crime, such as rape or murder, then their profiles should be kept indefinitely.

The survey revealed substantial opposition to medical records being held on a centralised computer system, with 55% against this, compared with 53% in 2006. Most medical records are currently controlled by GPs and hospitals, but health services are introducing centralised systems such as England's Care Records Service and Scotland's Emergency Care Summary.

Other findings show that 52% of participants think the introduction of identity cards is a bad idea, compared with 33% in the 2006 poll, and most people believe that the government should not be allowed to access the public's phone, email and internet records. The 2006 figure of 82% has risen marginally to 83%. The Home Office's Interception Modernisation Programme is working on enhancing existing government capabilities to access data about phone and web use.

Chris Pennell, senior analyst at Kable said: "The results of the research echo recent research by Kable into citizen data security. The survey, based on responses from 1,000 individuals and 240 public sector organisations, indicated that 83% of respondents were concerned about the storage and sharing of citizen data by public sector organisations, while 84% said they were in favour of government having to seek permission before sharing their data.

"While there is a high level of familiarity with UK and EU privacy laws within public sector organisations, this has not stopped problems with data security from occurring. This indicates that there is a need therefore for a change to the current model, one which puts the citizen in control of their personal data, opening up the market for suppliers who can provide IT built around citizen consent."

This article was originally published at Kable.

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