16 Feb 2009View Comments
The BCS has joined the growing criticism of the government’s plans for greater use of information sharing across the public sector.
The Coroners and Justice Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 14 January, and contains measures that would amend the Data Protection Act (DPA). The Bill proposes the use of Information Sharing Orders that overturn the principles of the DPA to enable data collected for one purpose to be used elsewhere.
The BCS said that the inclusion of the new measures in a wider bill that is designed for a different purpose “precludes sufficient public debate, discussion and parliamentary scrutiny of proposals that involve novel and very general – some would say draconian - powers of great significance to every UK citizen and organisation.”
“Of the 40 or so inputs we have received directly on these proposals from people inside and outside BCS, all agree on one thing - these proposals are far too ill-defined and general for their stated purpose, and are as a result potentially dangerous, and will do more harm than good,” said BCS deputy chief executive Ian Ryder.
“As past experience suggests, it is unwise to rely on the benevolence of a government to sensitively deploy such wide-reaching and general powers as these. In the wrong hands, it would permit the restriction - and ultimately the destruction - of the right to personal and corporate data privacy.”
The British Medical Association has also criticised the plan, saying it would “permit an unprecedented sharing of confidential personal health data” and “strip patients and doctors of any rights in relation to the control of sensitive health information.”
Other concerns raised about the Bill by the BCS include curtailing the independence of the Information Commissioner, heightening the distrust citizens have of government data use, and questioning whether it would stand scrutiny under the Human Rights Act.
“The Bill could have disastrous consequences in the hands of a less benevolent government,” said the BCS.
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