Feeds

ICO warns coalition on benefits snooping plan

Experian data trawl questioned

High performance access to file storage

The Information Commissioner has asked coalition ministers to explain their plans to use credit reference agencies to gather evidence of benefit fraud, citing privacy concerns.

Christopher Graham today said he has requested a meeting with the welfare minister Lord Freud.

It follows David Cameron's announcement yesterday of a new initiative to offer credit reference firms such as Experian a "bounty" for detecting benefit cheats. The firm is in talks to combine its data with that of the Department for Work and Pensions to look for signs of undeclared income.

The government estimates fraudsters claim £1.5bn every year.

But the Information Commissioner urged caution. "I hope the Government is going to hold to the good practice of considering the data protection implications of policies at the earliest stage," he said.

"A common sense approach should be applied to information sharing. This includes letting people know how their information will be processed. Most organisations make it clear that should they need to they will share details with authorities for the prevention and detection of crime."

The government already uses credit reference agencies to detect some tax fraud, but Cameron's proposals would radically extend the practice into the welfare system.

"Private companies use all sorts of different means to make sure they are not defrauded, why should the state be any different? In the end it is taxpayers' money," the Prime Minister said.

Graham indicated that he believes it is proportionate to share credit reference data where fraud is suspected. "It is reasonable to expect that if you are committing benefit fraud your details will be shared with the appropriate authorities dealing with this," he said.

His comments seem to echo those of civil liberties groups, however, who warned against government "fishing expeditions".

"Nobody approves of benefit cheats but mining private data on a routine basis on the off-chance of catching people out is a disproportionate invasion of privacy," said Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch.

The idea of incentivising the private sector to catch cheats has also come under fire. Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said: "What we must not do is create a benefit equivalent of parking attendants who are wanting to find people guilty, wanting to find people suspicious because that is the way they get paid." ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
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
Whoever you vote for, Google gets in
Report uncovers giant octopus squid of lobbying influence
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
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.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.