Monthly Archives: April 2014


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Olivia Solon writes in Wired: Data relating to every school pupil in England is now available for use by private companies thanks to a change in legislation implemented last year. The move is part of a wider government initiative to “marketise” data, which includes initiatives such as the much-criticised Care.data and the selling off of taxpayer data by HMRC. Education Secretary Michael Gove launched a public consultation back in November 2012 on proposal to let the Department for Education share extracts from the National Pupil Database “for a wider range of purposes than currently possible” to “maximise the value of this rich dataset”. The National Pupil Database (NPD) contains detailed information about pupils in schools and colleges in England, including test and exam results, progression at each key stage, gender, ethnicity, pupil absence and exclusions, special educational needs, first language. The data have been collected since around 2002 and is […]

Government offers school pupil data to private companies


Margaret McCartney, a general practitioner in Glasgow, writes in the British Medical Journal: Why is care.data, the government’s flagship NHS patient data programme in England, floundering? It’s consent, stupid. Most citizens who were asked hadn’t heard of the scheme. Consent to upload individuals’ medical records was sought by sending a leaflet, which was typically lost among a heap of pizza delivery menus. People who had opted out of receiving junk mail did not get it at all. The few who read the leaflet would have found that it didn’t even mention “care.data.” Also, it was heavy on assumed benefits (“find more effective ways of preventing, treating and managing illnesses”) but light on potential harms. It did not mention who would handle the data extraction (Atos), that records could be sold to private sector businesses, or the risk of re-identification by third parties and how this would be mitigated.

Care.data doesn’t care enough about consent


Wendy M. Grossman writes on the Tech President web site: How to destroy public trust in a government open data program in three easy steps: Step 1: Pick a sector that’s maximally sensitive – say, health care – and plan a program to sell the collected data with the stated purpose of benefiting the public good that conflates personally identifiable data with open data and research purposes with commercial exploitation and to which everyone’s records will be automatically uploaded with no ability to withdraw them later. Step 2: Publish conflicting, confusing, and incomplete information about it, omitting details such as deadlines, forms, and processes for opting out. Step 3: There is no step three! This is how the UK government has (so far) mishandled a program called care.data. Given the power to do so in legislation passed in 2012, the governing health authority ordered care.data into being at the end […]

England’s Care.data Fiasco: Open Government Data Done Wrong



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Rowena Mason writes in The Guardian: The personal financial data of millions of taxpayers could be sold to private firms under laws being drawn up by HM Revenue & Customs in a move branded “dangerous” by tax professionals and “borderline insane” by a senior Conservative MP. Despite fears that it could jeopardise the principle of taxpayer confidentiality, the legislation would allow HMRC to release anonymised tax data to third parties including companies, researchers and public bodies where there is a public benefit. According to HMRC documents, officials are examining “charging options”. The government insists that there will be suitable safeguards on personal data. But the plans, being overseen by the Treasury minister David Gauke, are likely to provoke serious worries among privacy campaigners and MPs in the wake of public concern about the government’s Care.data scheme – a plan to share “anonymised” medical records with third parties.

HMRC to sell taxpayers’ financial data


By Chris Vallance writes on the BBC web site: The chair of the panel set up to advise the NHS and ministers on the governance of patient information has told the BBC the Care.data programme was mishandled. Under the scheme, GP records in England will be put on a database and combined with other data to improve care. Dame Fiona Caldicott, chairwoman of the Independent Information Governance Oversight Panel (IIGOP), told the BBC that “there was too much hurry”. She said the public information campaigns were not clear enough. She also said NHS England had not followed the IIGOP’s advice on making the text clearer on the leaflet designed to inform every household of the programme. The articles is based on a broadcast interview with Dame Fiona, which you can listen to here.

NHS Care.data information scheme ‘mishandled’


Andrew Rettman and Damien McElroy write in the Daily Telegraph: The European Union’s Court of Justice said an EU law on data surveillance constitutes a “particularly serious interference” with individual “rights to respect for private life”. The court said collection of data to combat crime was a legitimate exercise but that the 2006 rules did not limit the scope of information stored. The ruling marks a victory for privacy campaigners who had argued that the European Union was sanctioning an intrusive regime of snooping across the eurozone. The ruling comes as European leaders face demands for tougher data protection measures following revelations that US spies eavesdropped on continental politicians in revelations leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The court verdict added the existing law’s loose wording means Europeans will feel “their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance” if the measures are left intact. The 2006 “data […]

EU data laws struck down by court ruling



Peter Van Buren writes at Open Democracy about a long-running court case in the United States that illustrates the threat posed by the Database State. Rahinah Ibrahim is a slight Malaysian woman who attended Stanford University on a US student visa, majoring in architecture. She was not a political person. Despite this, as part of a post-9/11 sweep directed against Muslims, she was investigated by the FBI. In 2004, while she was still in the US but unbeknownst to her, the FBI sent her name to the no-fly list. Ibrahim was no threat to anyone, innocent of everything, and ended up on that list only due to a government mistake. Nonetheless, she was not allowed to reenter the US to finish her studies or even attend her trial and speak in her own defense. Her life was derailed by the tangle of national security bureaucracy and pointless “anti-terror” measures that […]

Post-Constitutional America, where innocence is a poor defence