SIR – We wish to highlight concerns with “information sharing” provisions in the Digital Economy Bill.
The Bill puts government ministers in control of citizens’ personal data, a significant change in the relationship between citizen and state. It means that personal data provided to one part of government can be shared with other parts of government and private‑sector companies without citizens’ knowledge or consent.
Government should be strengthening, not weakening, the protection of sensitive information, particularly given the almost daily reports of hacks and leaks of personal data. Legal and technical safeguards need to be embedded within the Bill to ensure citizens’ trust. There must be clear guidance for officials, and mechanisms by which they and the organisations with whom they share information can be held to account.
The Government’s intention is to improve the wellbeing of citizens, and to prevent fraud. This makes it especially important that sensitive personal details, such as income or disability, cannot be misappropriated or misused – finding their way into the hands of payday-loan companies, for example. Information sharing could exacerbate the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable in society.
The Government should be an exemplar in ensuring the security and protection of citizens’ personal data. If the necessary technical and legal safeguards cannot be embedded in the current Bill and codes of practice, we respectfully urge the Government to remove its personal data sharing proposals in their entirety.
Dr Jerry Fishenden
Co-Chairman, Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG)
Chief Executive, Big Brother Watch
Director, Association of British Drivers
Director, English PEN
Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship
Dr Edgar Whitley
Co-Chairman, Cabinet Office PCAG and London School of Economics and Political Science
Director of Policy, BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT
Dr Gus Hosein
Executive Director, Privacy International and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Chief Executive Officer, Doteveryone
Chairman, Consumer Forum for Communications
Dr Kieron O’Hara
Associate Professor Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton.
Professor Angela Sasse
Head of Information Security Research, University College London and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Dr Judith Townend
Lecturer in Media and Information Law, University of Sussex
Dr Louise Bennett
Chairman, BCS Security Group and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Chief Executive Officer, CitizenMe
Director, The Freedom Association
Director and Founder, Projects by IF
Director, Open Rights Group
General Secretary, NO2ID and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Dr George Danezis
Professor of Security and Privacy Engineering, University College London and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
Senior Lecturer in Law, Sheffield Hallam University
Visiting Professor, Queen Mary University
Director, Manifesto Club
Co-ordinator, Defend Digital Me
Dr Chris Pounder
Director, Amberhawk and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG
medConfidential and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG