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

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 …

  1. Number6

    Not Good

    I used to think a unified government would be a good idea, but having seen how readily the government leaks data and abuses the information, I think I prefer the current inefficient model where they don't share it. My response is to do my best not to give them any information that I don't have to, although even that is probably too much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Good

      Until the next child care scandal when the usual "Social Workers failed to stop child death" and only when you realise that the whole system is a shambles and left hand has no idea what right hand is doing with everyone quoting "data protection" as the scape goat and ultimately damming someone that didn't even have a clue about what was going on.

      The issue is making the sharing relevant. So yes, housing should have access to passport / driving license details, benefits should know about a persons registered address, but at the same time, the parks division shouldn't know any of this. Unfortunately this is will it all will go wrong.

      1. zooooooom

        Re: Not Good

        Whenever someone cites "think of the children" as the argument for something being a good idea, you should realise its really fucking not ;)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not Good

          At Zooom....

          I will give a "lovely" real world example.

          Wife (ex-social worker) has a friend (ex-social worker - see a common link here) had a friend in front line child support.

          Went to check (on her own - yup it happens all the time) on a kid reported as "at risk"). All seemed ok, no problems before.

          However, unknown to her or the social work department, a violent partner had moved back into the flat. police aware, due to an incident a week before, but not passed on to anyone.

          Social worker turns up and is let in. At which point she is beaten up with a baseball bat by violent partner and admitted to hospital for 3 weeks.

          No here is the relevance, Social workers unaware that partner had moved back in, Police unaware that there were child protection issues in place and housing were unaware the partner ever lived there.

          So there you go. One personal account of how a bit of data sharing may of stopped this, yes kiddy was involved, but in this case, wasn't the one attacked.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not Good

            Emotive argument or not, I first want to see some basic principles established like everyone actually FOLLOWING the DPA before establishing privileged access. Otherwise we'll end up with the same screaming mess as the USA and double glazing sellers calling days after this workes has beaten up with an offer to replace the windows with something more secure.

            The BBC has been running an article about Google where they have handed over data on a child molester as a justification of them mining your email, which means that one (1) child porn watcher is all it takes to annul the rights of the gazillions that use their service. Sure I'm glad that they caught someone, but that's at a VERY high price (and also stupidly ineffective given the apparent number of these people judging by police reports). Well, for Europeans. For US citizens it appears there is no way to avoid this now.

            That's like locking up every 10th person that walks past me on a busy shopping street. This is justified because statistics dictate that you *will* have caught at least one thief and by lowering the ratio even more (say 1 in 3) you can also make the case that you will catch a peado in the process, so it's all good and permissible. None of this pesky Human Rights stuff, nah.

            Honestly...

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Not Good

              From the article...

              "all US companies are bound by US law to report suspected child abuse"

              So I really am having a hard time feeling outraged over Google comparing file hashes of photos given to them by the IWF.

              Just hope it's not MD5 though.

            2. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

              Re: Not Good

              Your "rights" are imagined. If you don't like Google's T&C's don't use their service. They are acting in accordance with the law.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Not Good

                Your "rights" are imagined. If you don't like Google's T&C's don't use their service. They are acting in accordance with the law.

                Given the amount of court cases they are presently involved in I somehow doubt that.

          2. GrumpyMiddleAgedGuy

            Re: Not Good

            So, if she had known there was a potentially violent partner she would have turned up with armed police in tow? I don't think so - it simply is not feasible, which is why your wife probably made a wise decision.

            However I have a simple scenario that should worry you. You have children at school age. You have bought a house specifically to get into a good school. The Labour Minister for Education decides that good school are good because they have good pupils and "disadvantaged" kids go to poor schools. So he decides to even things up. He says "I have access to you income (tx Tax Department). I going to come up with a scheme where you DONT get into a good school because you are close, you go to the school I assign you to and the assignments will be based on fairness (read: Middle class kids get sent to poor schools)."

            This kind of information allows social engineering on a grand scale. Be afraid, very afraid.

            1. Lars Silver badge

              Re: Not Good

              Why do you have poor schools.

          3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

            Re: Not Good

            All very emotive - but why stop there? Why should social workers be the only protected species? Surely debt collectors should also have access to the database in case they get attacked. And taxi drivers should be able to see if the address they have been asked to go to has any criminal connections. Perhaps fast-food places and pubs should have early warning of potential troublemakers and all retailers should be able to flag an alert when a person with a child in tow uses a credit card belonging to a scumbag suspected paedo? In fact, why not publish the entire government database on the open Internet - after all (all together now) - "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear."

            Meanwhile, in the scenario you gave, social workers may not have online access to the PNC, but they can pick up a telephone or email a public protection officer prior to a visit who is able to query the police database - and that officer would be able to say "risk" or "no known risks" even if not able to give away the exact details.

          4. Graham Cobb

            Re: Not Good

            I'm very sorry to hear about your friend's serious assault. However, why should social workers be treated specially? It could have been the milkman, or a neighbour, who was beaten up.

            If a violent criminal is living there, and is likely to assault people, that is a matter for the police to deal with. Unfortunately, some people commit violent acts -- taking away everyone else's human rights is not the solution to that. Of course, we could virtually prevent that sort of thing by keeping everyone locked up under house arrest all the time, but we wouldn't have a functioning society if we did that. The same would be true if every local government official had access to everyone's criminal, health, social care and tax records!

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not Good

            Shouldn't happen in Scotland anymore thanks to the interim Vulnerable Persons Database. This is a concern form that's raised wherever there's an incident of this sort and it gets passed directly to social work.

            Of course, whether or not social work read them and act on them is a different matter. I don't think the poor wee souls realised how many domestic incidents we deal with on a daily basis, so there's probably just a big stack of forms sitting unread at their offices.

            They are by far and wide the worst government agency I've ever had to work alongside.

            The fact that they change the standards of required care area by area says it all. I work in a shithole, and the houses I go into are fucking awful, but dear old social work... as long as there's dried noodles in the cupboard the kids fine, never mind the house is beyond filthy. Yet in a more affluent area the kid would be whipped out if the parents couldn't provide at least two holidays a year to Switzerland.

            That's another rant for another day anyway.

            The long and short of it is:

            There are failings in the system due to lack of datasharing.

            We need to datashare. That's inevitable and common sense.

            It's how we do it that will be the killer.

          6. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not Good

            One of my friends got hit by a car when I was a kid while we were messing around near a road.

            I'm still trying to get cars banned, and stop all forms of physical play for children.

          7. P. Lee Silver badge

            Re: Not Good

            What happens if the violent partner was an un-prosecuted police officer, or worked in the tax office, or an NHS hospital and was trying to track someone? The more you share, the greater the exposure and risk.

            Efficiency of the system is not the primary goal. You act to protect the majority and then look at edge-cases where exceptions are needed. Blanket sharing endangers the majority by opening up vast of possibilities for abuse.

          8. NeilMc

            Re: Not Good

            And yet the Governments first instinct in relation to UK citizens personal data is "how can they profit from it".

            Example being that they allow all sorts of scumbags to access data from the DVLA with few restrictions rather than address how our data can be used to improve life for citizens and civil servants.

            There is of course the other grave concern and that is the Governments track record on large IT system procurement and implementation is a litany of failed projects, poor value for money and monstrous delays.

            Final nail in the coffin being the many public and secret DPA breaches with laptops and USB drives containing huge datasets left on trains of dumped in skips.

          9. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not Good

            And the price you are hinting at to resolve this local difficulty with common sense local awareness is to turn us all into pre-criminals, and to remove the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

            Just step back a minute. We already have proof that if a terrorism placebo can be misused by the government to terrorise the population then they will not hesitate to misuse it in that way. Do we really need to give them more excuses, more reach, greater grip on the population's short and curly bits?

          10. Jake Maverick

            Re: Not Good

            funny how the official versions ALWAYS make out the g-men are the goodies, or occasionally the victim....

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not Good

        Why should housing know anything about driving licences (note spelling)? Or health unless that is a specific reason for a specific kind of housing? Or education? Or even employment?

        There should be no presumption that everyone, permanent staff, contractors, "outsourced" workers, who can put "civil service" or similar on his CV should be able to delve into one's life, put two and two together to make five or even to make four.

        Freedom is a difficult concept because freedom entails risk for all parties. It often includes actual mishap. The dreadful mistake, perpetrated now in the name of ant-terrorism, is that "safety" trumps freedom.

        If you really want maximum safety and to forgo freedom, lock yourself in your house in your gated "community" in your rigorously policed state, with your satchel full of permits for this and for that.

        But note that dear old GB resists even the most basic, voluntary identity card even though this would reduce the need to display details of one's electricity bill or bank account to some jobsworth just to get a service and do away with passport requirements for the whole of Europe plus many other countries i.e. increase freedom.

        It is this distrust of freedom that fuels the degradatation of our society towards a delayed "1984" and such idiocies as the desire to remove OUR freedom and our childrens' freedom to live and work where they want in, for example, the 26 EU countries - voluntary imprisonment in our own, possibly shrinking and ever more controlled little country.

        Overall, the cost of safety and efficiency is infinitely higher than the cost of freedom (by which I do not mean each for himself and devil take the hindmost - I do believe in solidarity e.g. national health, education, social welfare, travel systems as disease ridden poverty and ignorance are not freedom).

        1. browntomatoes

          Re: Not Good

          I agree with the thrust of your post but I have to disagree completely on identity cards.

          It was the DATABASE, along with the "papers please" requirement (backed by criminal sanctions) to carry them/be able to identify yourself to random government officials at the drop of a hat that people were (quite rightly) up in arms against, not the cards themselves (which otherwise would have served no useful purpose). And the fact that failing to tell the electricity company you've moved house simply means you are paying them for someone else's electricity whereas failing to tell the ID card people would have landed you in prison.

          We don't need identity cards to open our borders to everyone from Europe. We could join Schengen without them. We could even just, you know, decide to do it anyway, and let Europe keep their borders for people going back there.

          You also never used to need a passport or a utility bill to open a bank account. You used to just turn up and fill in some forms. If you wanted some credit from them then they might insist that you built up some kind of track record with them, or show them you could afford to pay them back in some other way. That worked pretty well. The root problem here is the ridiculous requirement to identify yourself to a bank before you can GIVE them money - not the specifics of HOW you go about identifying yourself.

          The point is, you are proposing "solutions" to problems which the government invented to start with. The net effect of all this is that a vast civil service bureaucracy gets to enlarge itself. Which, for them, is obviously just a happy coincidence.

    2. Ilmarinen
      Unhappy

      Re: Not Good

      Hello, I'm from the GOVERNMENT. I'm here to help you...

      F O A D !

      ( I wish they would )

    3. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Not Good

      Frankly, an efficient government would terrify me. It would definitely terrorize everyone!

    4. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Not Good

      "I used to think a unified government would be a good idea, but having seen how readily the government leaks data"

      The simplest answer to that is to make the head of department using the data criminally responsible for any leaks. One day in jail per record lost/stolen, dismissal, and a ban on further public sector employment (including through a consultancy). If they can prove responsibility for the leak at a lower level, then that employee gains the penalties.

      Presumably the whole dataset will be worth a lot more money to advertisers / ambulance chasers than it is in pieces. What will this additional income be used for, other than more nest padding for fat cat state employees?

      Presumably our data will also be centralised to enable whole back office functions to be made redundant lock stock and barrel?

    5. g e

      Re: Not Good

      I don't have so much of a problem with the data sharing to be honest. There's a certain sense in it like motor insurance/tax/licensing/mot'ing already does.

      It's the fucking data collection that needs reigning right in.

  2. chris121254

    biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

    "with a possible goal of rolling out the new systems after the general election in 2015"

    there you have it the biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

    VOTE THEM OUT

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

      Yes,, best vote Labour and we can get back on track rolling out* the National ID scheme and database.

      * by "rolling out" of course that refers to spending billions of pounds with a major IT supplier before abandoning it at a later date because arse has problems talking to elbow..

      1. chris121254

        Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

        Labour is more a lesser evil but we could always vote for the Green Party (also its better to have it abandon and not have big brother just saying) also Labour did say they abandon anything to do with the National ID scheme and database

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

          "Labour did say they abandon anything to do with the National ID scheme and database".

          Yup there will be the Anti-Terrorist and Peado Database, on which everyone will be added and then the results filtered.

          Admit it, they are all as bad as each other...as for the Greens, seriously I'd like to be able to power my house at night, you know when solar is non-existant and wind is generally lower.

          1. Roj Blake Silver badge

            Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

            "Admit it, they are all as bad as each other...as for the Greens, seriously I'd like to be able to power my house at night, you know when solar is non-existant and wind is generally lower."

            1: Use the surplus electricity during the day to compress air into tanks at the power station.

            2: At night, use the compressed air to power turbines.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

              "1: Use the surplus electricity during the day to compress air into tanks at the power station."

              Boyle's law says that the air will heat up (dramatically) - to the point where cooling is required (which is tossing energy overboard)

              "2: At night, use the compressed air to power turbines."

              Boyle's law says that the air will chill down (losing energy), requiring heat input to prevent it liquifying (and guess where that heat comes from, given you won't get enough from an air-intercooler)

              Compressed "anything" storage methods are spectacularly inefficient (down under 5% or so). Even pumped-water storage systems like Dinorwig have an overall efficiency of around 30%

              "So what?" you say "The energy would be tossed overboard otherwise" - That's true, but if you're trying to produce a steady output to match demand then you just increased the size of the windmill fleet from 20 times current numbers to something like 2-400 times current numbers (allowing for total output variability, as seen by gridwatch) and there simply isn't the space available to fit them, let alone the money to pay for them.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

          Labour is more a lesser evil

          You really, really have no idea how wrong you are.

          1. chris121254

            Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

            cant be any worse then the torys, Right?

        3. Roj Blake Silver badge

          Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

          "Labour did say they abandon anything to do with the National ID scheme and database"

          No doubt to be replaced with a National ID Database and associated Card Scheme.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

            "Labour did say they abandon anything to do with the National ID scheme and database"

            No doubt to be replaced with a National ID Database and associated Card Scheme.

            They're also rather deceiving jerks by making it look they're doing something good whereas in reality they were the ones who didn't just come up with the idea, but also pushed it through despite fairly extensive arguments not to do it.

        4. LucreLout Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

          "Labour is more a lesser evil..."

          Erm, no. Labour are pure evil. And I say this having grown up in a red or dead labour stronghold. They are absolute evil and must not be trusted with the economy ever again. If it's the Devil, or Labour, then lets give the Devil a chance.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

      This is what the previous administration was attempting when they designed the databases to back up the Identity Card scheme that the Conservatives were so keen to put down. By adding a super-key associated with someone's identity to all the other databases, it would have enabled them to join together disparate information sources however they wanted.

      They tried again in 2009 with Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

      I seem to remember one "David Cameron" was particularly keen to oppose the measures.

      I'm sure every Government wants to do this, but there are safeguards called Information Sharing Orders that deliberately restrict how government departments share data so as not to upset the citizen vs. state balance.. If this plan is implemented, they will be tearing up all of these, to the advantage of the state against it's own citizens.

      1. chris121254
        Holmes

        Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

        just want to say

        government and databases NEVER work even how hard they try to implemented it

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

      "VOTE THEM OUT"

      Not possible - Westminster political parties increasingly seem to behave like mere factions of a one party state. It's incredibly frustrating. I think, if I vote in 2015 (there's an outside chance that we in Scotland may not get a Westminster vote then) I'm seriously considering spoiling my paper as the only way of expressing "none of the above"

      AC for paranoia and cowardly reasons.

      1. chris121254

        Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

        spoiling your paper is good but I think you should vote for the green party just saying

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

          Greens as a protest vote is probably more effective than the raving monster loony silly party, but the spectre of greens in parliament pushing more heavily subsidised/ineffective windmills/solar/tidal barrages is a big offputter.

          The UK's _entire_ wind output at absolute peak only just matches the nuke plants and under normal circumstances it's more like 0.5 to 0.6 of that and is highly variable (http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/) - never mind you'd need to build 20 times as many windplants to match current peak demand.

          The big problem with excessive data sharing is "who watches the watchers?" - The only way to make this acceptable is to make misuse a serious offence with career-halting consequences and that simply won't happen or won't get enforced.

      2. browntomatoes

        Re: biggest reason NOT to vote tory this election

        @AC "VOTE THEM OUT"

        The retort to "I don't like any of the candidates" should be "then stand yourself" (or find a friend who agrees with you to do the same). Democracy is not about choosing between choices which someone else gives you, that's consumerism. Democracy is about PARTICIPATION by the people in government.

        One of the key insights the Tea Party movement in the USA had (and why they have been so comparatively successful) was to do this via the existing party machinery rather than fight the electoral system and split the vote on their side of the fence. I keep wondering whether something similar might emerge in the UK with a more "pro-freedom" stance, especially after the Lib Dems have turned out to be so disappointing on that front in government (voting for DRIP is simply the last in a long line of inexcusable decisions from them).

    4. g e

      Vote them out...

      In favour of whom, exactly?

      There's one that can be trusted more?

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    Theory & Practise

    In theory, this sounds like a good idea.

    In practise, we all know what a pig's ear the government IT contractors will make of it and the massive scope creep that will inevitably occur. (And the silk purse the contractors will make themselves in the process)

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Theory & Practise

      Yeah, If they're VERY serious about this, they could bankrupt the country with the enevitable [n] number of botched projects of [y] number of years.

      Only to be cancelled when finished because the world has gone to hell in the meantime and everybody has finally seen sense when it's almost to late and voted Green.

      Very shortly I shall burst into song, specifically '(Nothing but) Flowers' by Talking Heads

      So if I were you I'd stop reading now....

  4. zooooooom

    This seems like a bad move for the DVLA, whose business of selling your details to local authorities is going to be seriously impacted!

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      The DVLA is a Welsh make-work scam which could and should be done better with 90% fewer staff.

      Bad news for the DVLA isn't necessarily bad news for anyone else.

  5. DJO Silver badge

    New Government Slogan

    "Propagating inaccurate personal data since 2015"

    I assume that citizens will be given the right to review and edit?

    What d'ya mean "not a fucking chance"?

    Well that's something to look forward to.

    1. chris121254
      Devil

      Re: New Government Slogan

      only if you vote tory next year

      1. BoldMan

        Re: New Government Slogan

        You honestly think the other lot will behave any different? National ID cards ring a bell?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: New Government Slogan

          Blair is now in his lair under a volcano madly stroking his white cat and telling everybody that his Middle East peace process has been really successful as the Palestinian problem is a bit smaller. I really can't see Labour winding the lightning rod up the tower and bringing him back. At least, I hope not. Surely they can't be that demented?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: New Government Slogan

            "Surely they can't be that demented?"

            Well Miliband, and his proposals, seems to be out of favour in the Labour Party. So it is not unlikely that there will be plotting to replace him with a "tried and tested" solution that never lost an election. Feels like yet another 1930s deja vu. A charismatic opportunistic politician with messianic ideas was erroneously given enough power to activate a legal dictatorship.

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The road to hell[1]

    and all that.

    It's never *this* government you need to worry. After all they're cute and nice, and love their cats.

    It's the government as yet unseen - the next one.

    [1] is paved with good intentions, and things which seemed "a good idea at the time".

    1. chris121254
      WTF?

      Re: The road to hell[1]

      torys being cute and nice, and loving their cats!

      get out of here

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very little choice left....

    The stark reality, as anyone who works in local government will tell you, is that unless data sharing between public services becomes a reality very soon, the effects of the cuts will start to be felt in loss of services, particularly those services where there is a real need for data sharing; vulnerable adults, the elderly, children at risk....

    Data sharing makes it possible to find information immediately that you otherwise have to wait weeks for (even if the other authority/body agrees your request is valid) whilst you wait for the only person who can fulfill your request (because cuts have already removed any chance that they might have a backup or be part of a team) to work through their backlog and get back to you. In the mean time your assessment of whether that person requires care, or monetary support, or is at risk, will simply sit on hold.

    As long as the UK public continue to vote for whichever party will cut their tax bill the most the situation amongst the vulnerable in our society will continue to worsen. Unfortunately as offering to increase taxes to ensure that the UK has adequate levels of care for its population is now seen as electoral suicide it will take a large scale failure of care, probably leading to a substantial number of deaths, before the situation changes.

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: Very little choice left....

      Problem solved re children and vulnerable/old adults and those chronically sick.

      Information sharing via HSCIC.

      You didn't think customs and revenue joined for efficiency did you?

      1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

        Re: "You didn't think customs and revenue joined for efficiency did you?"

        No I didn't. They joined to give the Inland Revenue the dreaded HM prefix. Crown agents do not need warrants to search or just about anything else they chose to do, they also cannot be sued. The plods often took HM C&E officers on raids to provide the warrant-less search tactic..... But you knew that anyway.

        This latest idea though is starting to make it all look very very scary for the average citizen. Time to stock up on the Vaseline people.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Very little choice left....

        "You didn't think customs and revenue joined for efficiency did you?"

        They did in New Zealand.

        Overall result:

        1: Lower taxation burden on the population (the govt collected LESS tax revenue)

        2: MUCH lower collection costs (The govt spent far less collecting that revenue than the reduction in income)

        3: 2/3 of the staff of the combined tax and customs department were given P45s over a 12 year period - resulting in even lower costs (actually, most of them retired and there was a freeze on recruiting)

        It CAN be done properly, but there's no will to actually reduce costs in the UK civil service. Every change is an excuse to hire more people.

  8. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Deja vu ?

    every so often, you get stories about "joined up government". They have a brief vogue, and then die down again.

    My suspicion is every so often, a new, wet-behind the ears minister dreams up a wheeze, which sounds brilliant.

    On paper.

    They then take this idea to the civil service (who have seen it all before) who point out that maybe it might not be such a spiffing idea after all, since it would have to apply to the minister, their spouse, their children, and could make life a tad tricky, but that there's a desperate need for international standards around the internet of things, and that the minister would be better serving the government by devoting the next 18 months to that line of work.

    Rinse and repeat.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deja vu ?

      Sorry, that's no longer true. It's the Civil Service who is now behind this game as they see what power they can wield. Irrespective of whichever flavour of our virtually one party state happens to pretend to hold the reins at the time...

  9. Rikkeh

    Favourite Bogeyman

    Data Protection is everyone organisation's favourite bogeyman where a "health and safety" excuse can't be made up.

    I've had some experience of the Data Protection Act myself and I have to say that I have never come across a genuine "data protection" excuse that's actually hamstringing someone from doing something that you'd actually want them to be able to do with your information. One suspects that this experience isn't atypical and that the proportion of reported problems that are *actually* down to data protection issues is a miniscule fraction of the total.

  10. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

    Local sharing only

    From the comments above, it seems that there is a case for sharing information about social care, which is handled at county council or lower level. But only if shared at county or lower level.

    I recently got a new driving licence to celebrate the big 7-0. With my permission, they used my passport photo, thus saving me the bother of a trip to a photo booth. But I don't want them snooping without my permission at my electricity bills, internet usage, or whatever. Other people, subject to warrant, I don't mind. So the principle for central governement should be permission (explicit, informed, etc.) or warrant.

    For health matters, social trends, etc: aggregated data, yes; "anonymised" data no. And not to any civil servant unless they show that they know the difference between these. Not many PPE graduates, then.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Gimp

    Obligatory "Brazil" reference

    "Buttle, not Tuttle"

    Know what I mean?

  12. Someone Else Silver badge
    Holmes

    “People tend to assume worry that Government can share data between departments to complete simple tasks, and are surprised relieved to learn that it cannot,"

    There. Fixed it for ya.

  13. Graham Cobb

    Surprisingly honest document

    According to the article, the cabinet document says "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".

    Those seem like reasonable goals. However, the document then moves on to talk about the real goals... "checking if bus pass claimants are still alive, tackling illegal immigration or sharing information about teenagers involved in gangs". None of those are reasons to ask everyone in the country to sacrifice the right to privacy. None of those are at levels where they are causing the country serious problems, and there appears to be no evidence that they would be reduced by data sharing.

    So much for "evidence-based policy".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprisingly honest document

      Teenagers in gangs, again in Scotland, already happens through the Concern form in the interim Vulnerable Persons Database.

      We deal with a teenager in a gang, we submit a Concern form about that child which goes to the relevant government agency to look at, perhaps socialwork if they're still a minor, etc, etc.

      That side of it is already out there.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Surprisingly honest document

        "Concern form"

        Is it correct that a Concern entry can be made if anyone's legal behaviour is considered suspicious? Effectively hearsay smearing someone who is then subject to legal constraints for what they "might" do later? Minority Report anyone?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Surprisingly honest document

      "tackle social mobility" - Keep the plebs in their place.

      "assist economic growth" - Continue moving wealth from the poor to the rich.

      "prevent crime" - The fight against the paedo-terrorists and benefit fraudsters, but not the big embezzlers in the City and Govt. contractors, so business as usual, just more so.

  14. C. P. Cosgrove
    Thumb Down

    Oh dear !

    I must be a prophet, I wrote this on another forum a few weeks ago :

    "Something that might justifiably give rise to fears in the UK is that the Customs and Excise - who are responsible for the collection of sales tax - and the Inland Revenue - who collect income taxes - were fairly recently merged into one department. Fear and trembling ! After all, one man's expenditure is another man's income, and if you can measure the bit in the middle, then anything that is missing is tax evasion, isn't it ? Except their legacy systems are incompatible, the Inland Revenue's systems are, by their own admission, about 10 year out of date and they operate the biggest XP base in the UK.

    I am not for a moment suggesting that the individual Civil Servant is either lazy or incompetent, the ones I know are neither, but they are totally tied down by their departmental systems. I wouldn't quite go so far as to say the frequent reorganisation of government departments is the single biggest contributor to civil liberties in the UK, but it certainly isn't the smallest !"

    If this goes through, civil liberties go into a sudden and irreversible decline. The only saving grace, as pointed out by others above, is the governments record on large IT projects.

    Chris Cosgrove

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Vote for who!?

    I'm very surprised to hear some people telling others to vote for a different party, and expecting some kind of change to happen.

    1. chris121254

      Re: Vote for who!?

      people have fought and died for your right to vote

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vote for who!?

        I know, and that is what upsets me.

        Tell the people in power that. They're the ones fooling you, not me or anyone else.

  16. yorkiepud
    Facepalm

    The government are already sharing data of employees with other departments. How would you find out how many Army Reservists are civil servants? Ask the reservists who they work for? No! Ask every government department to supply the National Insurance number of every member of staff to the MOD so the MOD can cross check with its records and thereby deduce how many civil servants are also reservists. No doubt the exercise will be repeated when they want to know many are in the local authority / private / non-profit / education / university sectors.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust governments to do things the wrong way. Realistically IT systems could query other departments databases via a unique identifier like birth certificate number or passport number for basic relevant stats of the person. Then a department can retrieve a summary of active 'records', last case date and last interaction dates and last case closed that are appropriate for the department requesting them and the person filing the information can then choose to copy in another department if it is deemed necessary. The department receiving the information can theoretically act on it a lot quicker (Child Protection Services sees that a physical assault happened yesterday so the case officer might need to liaise with the cops to investigate before meeting the client or submit an immediate court order for the removal of the children).

    So CPS will need to see active arrests/incidents and last arrested date from the cops, tax returns from the tax office, government payments and any other government support. But the cops on the other hand just need to see outstanding warrants, active probation records and child protection data depending on the issue (i.e. you don't really need to see CPS data for a parking ticket but physical assault ...). The tax office will just need to know of the person is receiving government support and any court ordered payments (i.e. CPS, paying off fines, etc).

    If the cops are charging someone with drink driving and query related departments it would then see that child protection services have no active cases against the person but the last case closed was two weeks ago (no details) so the cops can then choose to forward on the report to CPS. When it gets to CPS the last case was about leaving a child unattended and there was a baby sitter looking after the kids then CPS can give the person a quick call and make sure nothing is going on. But if a pattern emerges that the cops are filing reports on the person regarding drunk driving, domestic disturbance, kids unattended in a short period then the CPS could decide to reactive the old case (or create a new one) and sort it out.

    If the tax office is processing a persons tax return and notices that they are actively receiving government benefits but have filed that they have earned $100,000 then they can forward on the tax return information to the other agency. Or better yet the tax office is submitting the tax return and notice that the person is has an active child payment order then submit a copy of the tax return to the CPS so they can review/file it.

    1. JohnMurray

      Everyone legally in this country has a unique identifier: a national insurance number.

      Your NI number will identify you to any gov (local or national) IT system. If you have a passport or photo drivers licence it will photo-ID you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Everyone legally in this country has a unique identifier: a national insurance number."

        If they have applied for one in order to be employed here - or possibly to claim a pension? There must be many people who do not require an National Insurance number to live legally in the UK.

      2. Richard 23

        "Everyone legally in this country has a unique identifier: a national insurance number"

        Unfortunately national insurance numbers are not unique!

  18. king of foo

    daten, bitte

    Why do they want/need the data?

    NOT why don't you want them to share it.

    Is this about convenience? Is it about crime? Or is because of someone like me; a geek obsessed with connecting everything together and creating transparency, blinkered to everything but this vision of purity and logic, unwittingly the herald of the next Nazi regime?

    To me this isn't about sharing data. It's about watching those sodding watchers and only providing access where it is relevant and legal. That's the difficult bit. How do you make a beautiful system and ensure the people using it have morals and integrity? I suppose you only give a small number of people direct access to this data, let's call them Intelligence Moderators. They operate under strict rules/guidance and all data shared is logged. Not the actual data shared but the type of request, by whom, when etc. Then we publish those logs publicly. How do we trust these people not to share too much? I don't know. It's imperfect. Maybe they have to meet really strict screening requirements for the job and we pay them very generously for what they do to avoid corruption. I can start tomorrow. Now... The real issue after all this political bs... how do we stop this being hacked and used for evil?

    Let's not bother shall we...

  19. WaveyDavey

    Green vote

    Sorry, can't vote for greens while they are against all forms of nuclear power. I think putting less CO2 in the atmosphere is a sensible move, but I don't like sitting in the dark.

    1. JohnMurray

      Re: Green vote

      They're not against nuclear power, just people.

      A world with less people is a greener world, a world with no people is the greenest world. I have yet to decide whether they're dedicated, or dumb.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Green vote

        They're not against nuclear power, just people.

        What? We have nuclear people? Where?

        :)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who to vote for?

    I'm stuck who to vote for. tors and Labour have no interest in my freedom as far as I can see. I'm currently looking at the Lib Dems, UKIP, the communist Party and the naked guy who wants all day parties.

    So far the naked guy is edging it. :(

  21. idiot stick

    Voter preference advice

    Vote UKIP - the SANE evil party.

  22. time-to-be-concerned

    Insane and wrong

    Is this just to cover stupid politicians that leave data on trains and park benches?

    Sometimes I think security is going backwards not forwards. You have swipeable visa not needing any code and now this idea. You should have a choice on how your information is governed. It's not up to the government to share private info

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