Official use of personal data is 'deeply flawed'

The way the Government uses and stores personal data is "deeply flawed", the Equality and Human Rights Commission said yesterday.

Current privacy law is not doing enough to stop breaches of data, a report published by the Commission found. A spokeswoman said that breaches in privacy are likely to "get worse in the future" as demand for personal information increases and as new technology is developed for collecting, storing and sharing data.

The report, entitled Protecting Information Privacy, suggests it is difficult for members of the public to know what information is held on them by the Government and its agencies or private bodies, and that it can be hard to hold anyone to account for errors in the personal data held or its misuse. The Commission has recommended that the Government make the current legislation simpler to understand.

It said public bodies and others have to justify properly why they need someone's personal data and for what purpose. Any requirement to use such data for any reason other than for which it was collected should go through a vetting process, the Commission recommended.

Geraldine Van Bueren, a commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "The state is holding increasing amounts of information about our lives without us knowing, being able to check that it's accurate or being able to challenge this effectively. This needs to change so that any need for personal information has to be clearly justified by the organisation that wants it."