A House of Lords Committee has heavily criticised the data sharing provisions in Part V of the Digital Economy Bill; it has reported that the provisions should not be supported in their current form.
The Report confirms my comments in previous Blogs (see references) that the data sharing provisions (e.g. for efficient public sector service delivery, for research and statistics, for debt recovery and for fraud) are untrammelled. Namely the provisions:
- combined with the flexibility for Ministers to add to the list of data sharing objectives, provides a gateway that could allow future Governments to share personal data across the public sector by Ministerial edict without reference to Parliament;
- could replace many existing data sharing legislative provisions and negate the need for data sharing provisions in future legislation.
The following quotes (in italics) from the Report are enough to convince you that that these provisions are seriously deficient:
“We infer that at least some of the clauses in Part 5 are intended to supersede existing and more specific information-sharing gateways”
We observe that those provisions are drafted in very general terms, and would appear to permit any purpose connected with the provision of a public service to be prescribed as a “specified objective”.
“The provisions of the Government’s draft regulations would allow for large scale disclosures of confidential personal information from one “specified person” to another.”
For example, the DWP would have power to disclose social security information on a bulk basis to all local authorities, and/or the police, and/or schools, with a view to allowing the recipients to match this against data that they already hold to facilitate the identification of individuals facing multiple disadvantages.
“We consider it inappropriate for Ministers to have the almost untrammelled powers given by clause 30 which would allow them to prescribe
- extensive lists of public authorities as “specified persons”, either by name or description; and
- non-specific purposes for which the information may be disclosed or used, which need only meet the general conditions about improvement of public services”
“We are also deeply concerned about the power to prescribe as a “specified person” a person “providing services to a public authority” (see clause 30(3)(b)). ….This means that any person with whom one of those authorities chooses to contract for the provision of services connected with the “specified objective” would then become entitled to disclose and receive information under this gateway for the purpose of that objective. This applies whether the service provider concerned is in the public sector or is a charity or a commercial organisation.” (Report’s emphasis)
Despite “assurances that the power would be used only for “slight modifications”, there is in fact nothing to prevent a Minister from using the power to make extensive amendments to the Chapter, for example by removing the safeguards”
Get the idea? These provisions in their current form are dangerous extension of Ministerial powers – as awful as those associated with the National Identity Register of the ill-fated ID Card Act 2006.
Forthcoming Amberhawk’s courses in February
- DP Audit 20 February (London)
- Next GDPR Workshop: 23 February (London)
- DP Foundation Course: Starts 7 March (BCS syllabus; London)
- DP Practitioner Course: Starts 28 March (BCS syllabus; London)
Advanced warning: we have devoted the next UPDATE session on 3rd April 2017 to the GDPR. We have an impressive array of speakers lined up including from ICO and DCMS http://www.amberhawk.com/bookevents.asp
Report from House of Lords:
Blogs on this topic
Digital Economy Bill data sharing provisions undermine Parliamentary scrutiny and create privacy risks: http://amberhawk.typepad.com/amberhawk/2016/11/digital-economy-bill-data-sharing-provisions-undermine-parliamentary-scrutiny-and-create-privacy-ris.html
Hands off our data: a data sharing free for all in Part V of the Digital Economy Bill: http://amberhawk.typepad.com/amberhawk/2016/11/hands-off-our-data-a-data-sharing-free-for-all-in-part-v-of-the-digital-economy-bill.html