link to briefings documents at magnacartaplus.org
 

Magna Carta Plus News

back to magnacartaplus.org index page
orientation to the news at MagnaCartaPlus.org

short briefing dcuments at MagnaCartaPlus.org

This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
Archive of old news service:
2002 - 2004

1st Jan to 9th Sept 2005

Google
 
Web magnacartaplus.org

Update on data sharing proposals

Posted by James Hammerton @ 7:04 pm on 21 February, 2009.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state, accountability.
Edit This Permalink to this article

Regarding the proposed power to allow Ministers to order data sharing via statutory instrument, I thought I’d post an update on recent developments:

  • The British Medical Association have claimed that the data sharing powers will jeopardise medical confidentiality:

    Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, told the Guardian that the profession was “extremely concerned” about legislation tabled by Jack Straw, the justice secretary.

    Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill would allow the Department of Health to share information on NHS databases with other ministries and private companies.

    Health ministers have no immediate plan to make use of the power, which would give all Whitehall departments a fast-track procedure for getting permission to share data without parliamentary debate.

    The NHS is proceeding slowly with a scheme to upload the medical records of everyone in England on to a national database known as the Spine. Ministers have given frequent assurances to patients that the information would only be accessed by healthcare staff who need it.

    But Meldrum said patients could not know whether future ministers would abide by this undertaking. According to the BMA, the trust between doctors and patients would be destroyed if Straw’s bill, as it stands, became law.

    Meldrum told the Guardian: “The bill gives any minister the right to access patient-identifiable information - and give others access to it. There appears to be no limit to what could be done with this information as long as the minister can make a vague… justification, claiming that sharing the information is in line with government policy at the time.

    “The doctor-patient relationship is built primarily on trust that information is given confidentially and will not normally be shared without the patient’s consent. Once we go down the road where that principle can be breached, widespread possibilities could flow.”

  • The British Computer Society and the Information Commissioner’s Office have also both criticised the proposals:

    The Bill would allow one of the central principles of the DPA – that information collected for one purpose by one organisation should not be used by another organisation for another – to be set aside.

    It would allow ministers to issue an “information sharing order” as long as this will be in support of a public policy and held to be in the public interest.

    The BCS said this would “devalue the principle of informed consent that lies at the heart of the DPA” which could “heighten distrust that citizens have of government and central initiatives” and have “disastrous consequences in the hands of a less benevolent government.”

    It also argued that the measures might not survive a challenge under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees a respect for private and family life.

    In a commentary on its website, the ICO said the measures should be restricted to “precisely defined circumstances in which there is a legal barrier to information sharing that would be in the public interest” and that “large scale data sharing initiatives that would constitute significant changes to public policy” should be excluded.

    It also argued that it should be stated explicitly that any data made subject to an information sharing order was still protected by the DPA and the Human Rights Act.

  • The Out-law.com website covers the Information Commissioner’s Office concerns in more detail:

    The ICO has released its second opinion on the contents of the Coroners and Justice Bill, which proposes legalising greater sharing of information between Government departments and with outside contractors and private companies who request it.

    When the Bill’s proposals were first published, the ICO was less critical.

    “Some have suggested that the Bill’s information sharing provisions represent an unwarranted interference with the privacy of personal information. We do not agree. The provisions of the DPA will continue to apply to the sharing of personal information whether undertaken within the scope of an information order or otherwise,” said its opinion, published on 22 January.

    The ICO now believes that the proposed new law poses some dangers to privacy and for Government’s accountability for the processing of personal data it has collected.

    “The Bill’s information-sharing provisions are too wide, and its safeguards relatively weak,” it said. “The provisions should only apply in precisely defined circumstances where there is a legal barrier to information sharing that would be in the public interest.”

    Rosemary Jay, a privacy law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, warned of similar concerns when the Bill was published.

    “It would allow for information to be shared with banks or other financial institutions,” she said in January. “There is no restriction on purpose of the sharing so for example it would enable the Minister to make an order empowering the tax authorities to disclose the earnings of individuals to credit reference agencies.”

    Jay said that such disclosures could be made without the person whose information is being shared ever knowing about it.

    The ICO is also concerned that the law will allow Government to make major changes in the field of information law without consulting Parliament.

    “The Bill needs an additional safeguard, to prevent the use of information-sharing orders in the context of large-scale data sharing initiatives that would constitute significant changes to public policy,” said the opinion.

    The Bill allows the ICO to investigate Government departments it suspects of not processing or sharing information properly through the issuing of an assessment notice.

    “The Assessment Notice provisions need to be widened, so the Information Commissioner can serve an assessment notice on any data controller,” said the ICO’s latest opinion. “The risks can be just as great outside the public sector and the boundary lines between the sectors are increasingly blurred. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution supported this conclusion at paragraph 238 of its recent ‘Surveillance: Citizens and the State’ report.”

  • The Coroners and Justice Bill passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons and is now in the Committee stages. NO2ID has covered the second reading debates and votes on their discussion forums, including links to transcripts of the debate and a list of how MPs voted. 278 MPs voted to allow a second reading, whilst 47 opposed. The NO2ID forums have also covered the Committee Stage debates that have occurred so far.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

email feedback@magnacartaplus.org

© magnacartaplus.org2008, 2007, 2006 [1 December]

variable words
prints as variable A4 pages (on my printer and set-up)

abstracts of documents on magnacartaplus.org UK Acts of Parliament click for news from magnacartaplus.org orientation to magnacartaplus.org orientation button links to other relevant sites links

Powered by WordPress