Quarter of public sector databases illegal, report claims

One in four government databases are ‘almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law’, according to a report by political reform advocacy group the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

The report, entitled ‘Database State‘, compared 46 UK government databases with privacy and data protection guidelines set out in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ten public sector databases including the National DNA Database, the National Identity Register, the NHS Detailed Care Record and the Department of Work and Pensions’ data sharing initiative “should be scrapped or substantially redesigned”, the report said.

“All of these systems had a rationale and purpose,” it read. “But this report shows how, in too many cases, the public are neither served nor protected by the increasingly complex and intrusive holdings of personal information invading every aspect of our lives.”

The report complained that, while UK information technology projects may be built according to the Data Protection Act and scrutinised by the Information Commissioner, whose job it is to enforce the act, that alone does not ensure compliance with European human rights legislation.

It also criticised government IT procurement, which it argued should be more sophisticated and open. “Britain is greatly afflicted by government naivety in purchasing,” it argued. “Many departments outsourced too much of their IT in the 1980s, and now do not have people with the skills to manage complex procurements.”

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust was set up in 1904 by the chocolate manufacturer to promote liberal electoral reform. Its remit has since expanded to promote liberal causes in political life. According to the Dictionary of Liberal Thought, it is the largest single contributor to the Liberal Democrat party to date.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media (now Bonhill Group plc) from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The...

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