Quarter of UK's databases are 'illegal'
Little thought given to privacy, study warns
One in four of the major government databases is almost certainly illegal and should be scrapped, a report says. The national DNA database, the proposed national identity database and the ContactPoint system, which will hold records of all children in England, are among the systems singled out for fundamental reform or abolition.
Researchers called for 11 systems assessed as "almost certainly illegal" under human rights or data protection law to be scrapped or substantially redesigned.
The study, by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, also pointed to significant legal and practical problems with a further 29 databases, including the national childhood obesity one and the planned NHS summary care record system, and said they should be reviewed independently. Privacy experts were asked to compile the report after two discs listing the entire child benefit database went missing in 2007. Researchers said data-sharing should be authorised only for strictly defined purposes, and said sensitive personal information should be collected and shared only with the individual's consent.
The report's co-author, Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, said: "Britain's database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster which is penalising some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Often, computerisation has been used as a substitute for public service reform rather than a means of enabling reform. Little thought is given to safety, privacy and value for money."
Researchers highlighted legal problems with systems that held sensitive data where there was "no effective opt-out" such as ContactPoint, the index planned to record English children's relationship with public services. The report said: "Many question the consequences of giving increasing numbers of civil servants daily access to our personal information. Objections range from cost through efficiency to privacy. The emphasis on data capture, form-filling, mechanical assessment and profiling damages professional responsibility and alienates the citizen from the state."
A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We recognise the absolute necessity of striking the balance between the rights and privacy of the individual and the ability to disrupt, prevent and investigate crime effectively. That is why the Home Secretary [Jacqui Smith] has made it clear that a 'common sense' test must be applied to every action in this area to make sure it is proportionate, transparent and robust safeguards are in place.
"For example, the National Identity Scheme and ID cards will have independent oversight built in from the start, with every citizen given the right to see their data and who has accessed it. Technology such as DNA and CCTV is providing clear benefits in deterring and detecting crime, securing convictions and reducing fear of crime."
'Criminal' records Singled out for abolition
*National DNA Database
Holds 4 million individual profiles
A national index of all children in England
*The NHS Secondary Users Service
Summaries of hospital and other treatments
*The Common Assessment Framework
Children's welfare needs
A Home Office system used to determine whether young people are at risk of offending
*Dept for Work and Pensions data sharing programme
Matches data with government and outside agencies
*Audit Commission National Fraud Initiative
Matches data within central and local government bodies to detect fraud and error
*The Prum framework
An international agreement which allows police information to be shared
*Communications database Would bring together details of emails, telephone calls and web use
*National Identity Register Will store biographical information and biometric data linked to ID cards
*The NHS Detailed Care Record Will hold GP and hospital records
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
- 4 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 5 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
MH17 crash: Investigators discover more human remains and 'huge section of plane'
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...