Feeds

Expert: UK would break its own rules with web-snoop law

Hello there, Data Protection Act

Boost IT visibility and business value

The UK government will have to create a new exemption to the rules for processing sensitive personal data in order to facilitate any new "fast-track mechanism" for data-sharing by its departments and public bodies, an expert has said.

However, data protection law specialist Kathryn Wynn of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that even with such an exemption the bodies may still be find it difficult to justify sharing individuals' sensitive personal details with each other without having to inform those individuals about the activity.

Earlier this week the Guardian reported that Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude will next month unveil plans for a new law that would provide government departments and public sector organisations with a "fast-track mechanism" to use personal data collected by other departments or public bodies for purposes different to originally intended.

The scheme could involve sensitive personal data collected by doctors or the police being made available for use by other bodies without individuals' "consent or knowledge", the paper's report said.

Under existing data-protection legislation, special rules are set out to govern the processing of sensitive personal data, such as information relating to medical records or information about suspected or convicted criminals.

Wynn said that the government risks "cutting across" the existing rules unless the new law is carefully drafted and contains "robust" privacy safeguards.

Under the Data Protection Act (DPA), personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully. Organisations are required to satisfy one of six lawful processing conditions – obtaining an individual's consent is one condition that meets that requirement.

However, consent is not required if "the processing is necessary for the purposes of legitimate interests pursued by the data controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where the processing is unwarranted in any particular case by reason of prejudice to the rights and freedoms or legitimate interests of the data subject," according to the 'legitimate interests' condition – one of the other lawful conditions set out in the DPA.

"At the moment, if an organisation wishes to share sensitive personal data, it must satisfy the first data protection principle," Wynn said. "The data sharers would be required to ensure processing is fair and lawful and that individuals have been issued with a fair processing notice.

"The data-sharing bodies may also be able to rely on the 'legitimate interests' justification for processing data without consent provided that they have made an assessment to ensure that the data sharing will not be prejudicial to the individuals," she said.

"The bodies would also have to ensure that one of the grounds for processing sensitive personal data has been satisfied – this is fairly narrow so the only condition that an organisation would be able to rely on for general data sharing is obtaining the individual’s explicit consent. As the requirements to obtain explicit consent can be tricky from an administrative/logistical perspective, an exemption or derogation from having to obtain explicit consent in order to process sensitive personal data would facilitate data sharing," Wynn said.

"However, it would be hard for the government to justify an exemption from the fair processing notice requirements – ie, requiring the data-sharing bodies to tell individuals about the nature and extent of the data sharing – unless to do so would be prejudicial to the purposes of obtaining that data sharing," she said. "Such an example may be where tax officers are investigating individuals for benefit fraud and are perhaps looking to obtain data about those people from other government departments, although the DPA already an contains exemption that deals with such a scenario.

"There should be no reason why participating bodies should not tell individuals about data sharing unless such an exemption applies," she said.

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.