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Jack Straw, bereaved families and data sharing

Posted by James Hammerton @ 11:22 pm on 27 January, 2009.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
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Jack Straw MP, commenting on the data sharing proposals during the debate on the Coroners and Justice Bill stated:

At present, when a family is bereaved they often have to contact Government Departments and local authority departments many times over to make the necessary arrangements, often providing the same information. Responsible data sharing between the relevant agencies would reduce the number of people who would need to be notified of a death, thereby helping to relieve distress at a difficult time.

I’ve seen government ministers use this bereaved families scenario several times now, and it makes no sense whatsoever as a justification for giving the government the power to remove legal barriers to data sharing if it will serve their policy objectives.

The problem can be resolved easily, without new legislation, in a manner entirely in keeping with the Data Protection Act.

Each of the public bodies and government departments that need to be informed of a death could have a form specifically for the purpose of updating all the other organisations that need to know with the necessary information. By filling in the form, the bereaved would be agreeing to have that information shared for the purpose of updating the relevant organisations with the necessary information. Thus the collection and sharing of the data for the purpose of informing organisations of someone’s death would be agreed to by the people supplying the data.

Alternatively, whatever form each organisation has for notifying a death could have a question or a tick box asking if each other organisation should be informed as well.

Either way you get consent for sharing from those who wish to give it and thus enable a “one stop” notification process to take place if the bereaved wish it. No need for any legislation let alone this monstrosity.

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