August 24th, 2006

Ministers are to announce next month that they have overturned a key data protection principle which prevents information on individual citizens held by one government department from being passed to another public agency, the Guardian has learned.

It is believed that a cabinet committee, MISC 31, set up by Tony Blair to examine data sharing and chaired by Hilary Armstrong, the chief whip, decided last month to overturn the principle that personal information provided to a government department for one purpose should in general not be used for another.

Last month? WTF on whose authority (I’m sure that this question doesn’t ‘matter’ anyway). In any case this is a key decision in allowing the NIR to be used as a hub for government busybodying, snooping and before you can say ‘Salamitaktik’ Aleikum – Control over day to day activity. This is exactly the way the government can say $PRIVATE_DATA will not be stored on the National Identity Register even though anyone with NIR information will be able to access a government database with that information on it.

The current policy means that public bodies and departments must provide a legal justification each time they want to share data about individuals and specify the purpose. The new policy will reverse this and allow officials to assume that personal data can be shared unless there are pressing reasons not to disclose it.

This basically means no one is going to bother checking why a DEFRA official is so interested in your Driving License or why someone from the MOD is checking your tax returns. This is also the the attitude towards data sharing in the US and what makes their Social security Numbers so valued for fraud using information gathered by the state.

Mr Suffolk has denied there will be free trade across Whitehall in personal information: “Not all information will be shared,” he said. “This is not about sharing your health record or criminal record. It is about basic data sharing to ensure that services to citizens are seamless.”

Not YET. You wouldn’t have imagined a backroom committee would be able to overturn data protection policy would you? And, again, at whose bequest/with what safeguards? Who is this Mr Suffolk, without legislative responsibilities, that we are supposed to trust with this statement?

(John Suffolk, the former Director General of Criminal Justice, is the new government CIO…An IT veteran with a CV stretching back over 25 years including a stint as IT director at the Britannia Building Society, Suffolk will report in to Ian Watmore, the previous holder of the post and now Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit…In his spare time, Suffolk helps run a farm for rare breeds.)

It is expected that the change of policy on data sharing will be presented as a consumer-friendly move.

To call the public consumers in relation to government services is still a distortion of the relationship.

Officials say that when a family move home, they could register their new address online with their local authority, which would then update the records of the new local authority and pass the information to the driving licence authorities, the tax authorities and the electoral registrar.

At least half of this does not concern central government in its current role (and in the utopian future none of this would need to be handled by central government).

…Critics claim that an unpaid parking ticket for someone on benefits could lead to that information being passed to the Benefits Agency and the fine deducted directly.

Or perhaps you will be denied medical care unless you top up your NI contribution, more likely, overpaid tax credits will be automagically deducted from your pay packet. Give with one hand, take with the other and pay ‘commission’ on both that’s the reality of Brown’s top down economic view – I digress.

So the need to shed the state from your life becomes even greater. The gap between rich and poor expands, between those who can afford privacy and those who are bullied into justifying their lives to all and sundry. Unless unless…

Via the Guardian who are also doing some good exposing of the massively over budget NHS IT coordination project (you can feel the wasted billions in NIR implementation in your veins – furring them up like cholesterol)

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