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UK.gov wants public sector to rip up data protection law

Big Brother really WILL be watching you if Mad Frankie Maude gets his way

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The British government is in the preliminary stages of designing a controversial system which will share citizens' sensitive personal information across government departments without their consent.

Leaked documents show civil servants are planning to mimic the data-sharing systems used by firms like Amazon or Tesco.

This could mean information about a person's driving licence, criminal record and even how much energy they use at home will be shared by apparatchiks in all government departments.

The measures are intended to side-step the old-fashioned guidance contained in the Data Protection Act, which makes it very difficult for information to be shared across government departments.

These recommendations are contained in a Cabinet Office “discussion document”.

“People tend to assume that Government can share data between departments to complete simple tasks, and are surprised to learn that it cannot," civil servants wrote.

“Removing barriers to sharing or linking datasets can help Government to design and implement evidence-based policy – for example to tackle social mobility, assist economic growth and prevent crime”.

The proposals have been drafted by Cabinet Office secretary Francis Maude and will be contained in a White Paper due to be published in the autumn, with a possible goal of rolling out the new systems after the general election in 2015.

The most important state services involved could include police, schools, local council and government departments.

Examples of possible uses for the new data sharing system could include checking if bus pass claimants are still alive, tackling illegal immigration or sharing information about teenagers involved in gangs.

It is not yet certain that the measures will be enshrined in law. A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “Before a decision can be taken on whether to introduce draft legislation, it is important that a wide range of views, from within and outside government, are understood.

“The Cabinet Office is leading an open policy-making process, working in partnership with civil society and privacy organisations to develop policy proposals for areas where we believe data sharing, as one possible option, could significantly improve the way we currently work. This process is ongoing and we cannot pre-empt the solutions that it may produce.” ®

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