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UK drivers' privates fondled overseas in new outsource plan

Transport bosses mull granting access to sensitive data

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Transport for London (TfL) has proposed that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) vehicle keeper data - which includes names, addresses and registration plate numbers - should be accessed outside the UK by contractors working on the capital's congestion charge scheme.

The congestion charge is run by IBM, which was awarded the five-year £600m contract in 2009. IBM also supplies IT services to the DVLA under a £437m deal awarded in 2002 and renewed seven years later.

TfL said that IBM is offshoring a number of technical support roles to reduce the ongoing operational costs to TfL by about £7m a year. It also said that no UK jobs, including post with TfL, will be affected.

In a statement a DVLA spokesman said: "A proposal by TfL is being considered in relation to its congestion charge scheme which will allow limited and strictly controlled access to information from abroad, but this will not extend to any offshore storage of personal data or other sensitive information.

"We are seeking appropriate assurances that it will not be possible for the data to be printed, copied or amended in any way when it is accessed from abroad."

He added that all the DVLA's data is stored in the UK and there are no plans to change this, and IT systems will have to be managed to the same standards as if they were in the UK.

"We will ensure that all appropriate controls for data protection are in place, and will continue to be in place. These controls are independently validated and approved in line with government information security requirements and procedures," he said.

Nick Fairholme, director of congestion charging and traffic enforcement, told Guardian Government Computing: "No congestion charge data is being sent overseas. Following extensive discussions and the demonstration of robust security protocols that are in place on the contract, the Cabinet Office approved the offshoring of a number of IBM technical support roles which requires access to UK held data."

A DVLA consultation about the closure of 39 of its registration and enforcement offices is due to end on 20 March.

Commenting on this in relation to the offshoring proposal, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, which represents many of the agency's staff, said: "We're doubtful it's a mere coincidence that this comes as the DVLA is planning to close these offices and we fear it could pave the way for further privatisation and offshoring of DVLA services."

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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