Headlines: August 17th, 2004

Sharing information between different arms of government could endanger individual privacy. This is the concern of the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas. The major project which will allow the state to monitor individual citizens is the National Identity Card scheme. Other schemes that will contribute to building up individual profiles are the UK Population Register under development by the Office for National Statistics and the Department for Education and Skills database of all children from birth to adulthood proposed in the Childrens Bill.Richard Thomas said: “I also have concerns in relation to the wide range of bodies who can view the record of what services individuals have used. This will enable the Government and others to build up a comprehensive picture of how we live our lives. However, individuals will not know which bodies have been accessing their personal information because the draft (Identify Card) bill removes the right to see their own information. I have asked the Government to reinstate this fundamental data protection right.”

The creation of a national identity registration number in the Identitiy Card scheme, will provide a link that will identify related records in every other database. But the Office for National Statistics said: “The records in the planned Population Register could only be linked when specifically authorised by legislation.”

The issue underlying all these information developments is controlling the data flow from one database to another. Failure to manage the flow would result in the state having a detailed picture of how people live their lives.

The other concern is the extent to which secondary legislation can be used to extend information schemes, thus fuelling anxieties about “function creep”.