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Wide-ranging UK DATA SHARING moves one step closer

Report shelved as government looks for quick fix

Wide-ranging UK DATA SHARING moves a step nearer

In other words, there needs to be an easy-to-use, free of charge, mechanism whereby data subjects could gain access to the courts in order to test the lawful basis of the data sharing; allowing the commissioner to enforce unlawful processing in terms of Article 8 is one example of such a mechanism.

The documentation is silent on the issue of redress for a data subject who has been damaged by non-consensual disclosures; one suspects that the aggrieved data subject is supposed to take a compensation claim through the courts. This redress thus only applies in the most damaging of circumstances.

You could easily have the commissioner (or some ombudsman) recommending compensation if there is detriment to the data subject caused by the data sharing. This could, for example, arise if a data subject is denied a benefit on the grounds of sharing inaccurate personal data.

Sadly, there is currently no indication that data sharing, once commenced, will cease. For instance, in my view, if data sharing powers are used in non-law enforcement circumstances, there must be a document which explains the benefits achieved by data sharing in quantifiable terms. By implication, if the stated objectives are not realised, then data sharing should cease.

Instead, the document suggests periodic reviews so that improvements can be identified (i.e. so that data sharing continues), or the existence of oversight by parliamentary committees that can make recommendations. Both these are window-dressing — once powers are enacted, data sharing continues and recommendations are just that (something that can be ignored).

Another way of achieving this cessation of processing objective is to have a “sunset” clause on each data sharing initiative. This would require data sharing powers to be renewed under an independent process, and enables an effective cost-benefit analysis on the basis of past performance, before data sharing powers are renewed.

As I said, these simple protections are missing and I have yet to identify any effective privacy protection to prevent excessive data sharing or redress should data sharing go pear shaped.

Concluding comments

The government’s timetable is tight. A white paper is expected by Christmas and a period of public consultation ending in March. This means that there will be a civil service briefing pre-prepared for an incoming government after the next General Election. Such a timetable excludes the considered approach suggested by the commission.

With all political parties promising considerable deficit reduction targets (albeit different ones), then one suspects that all civil servants need do is to hint at unquantifiable but huge savings that arise from wide data sharing (just as they did in 2006 and 2008).

It is therefore more likely that these proposals will be implemented; for the government, I suspect, it is a case of third time lucky.

Just to be clear. I am not against data sharing; I am against data sharing that leaves the data subject exposed with no easy means of redress.®


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