The Information Commissioner (IC) has issued a warning to the government and other public bodies to share data properly or risk losing public confidence.
In his annual report Richard Thomas highlights the renewed focus on projects to share information among public sector bodies and acknowledges the potential benefits of such projects. However he claims that there is a greater threat to intrusion of people’s personal privacy than ever before.
Thomas stressed that the government and public bodies could only retain public trust and confidence if information is shared in a secure, lawful and responsible way.
He added: “There must be clarity of purpose – not just sharing because technology allows it. And people must be told how their information is being shared and given choices wherever possible.”
The IC argues that data protection should be seen as the solution, not as the problem and claims there is too much uncertainty and misunderstanding within the public sector about what can or cannot be done.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is currently working on information-sharing guidelines and also plans to promote statutory codes of practice.
Thomas added: “As major government initiatives roll forward, I am determined to champion respect for personal information with a common sense approach. In this way we can ensure that, while increased information sharing can serve worthwhile goals, it does not result in unacceptable intrusion or damage to individuals.”
Last year’s annual survey conducted by the ICO showed that the public ranked protecting personal information as its third most important social concern. A total of 80% of individuals were concerned about the use, transfer and security of their personal information.
The ICO’s work during the year has included advising Connecting for Health on the development of the NHS Care Records Service and working with the Department for Education and Skills on the proposed Child Index, a database of every child in England.