Women and children first
Looking forward to London

Guarding our data


The mass of personal information on government databases must be protected or public trust will be damaged, ministers are being warned.  Information Commissioner Richard Thomas says getting details wrong or mixing them up has huge costs to the people concerned, government and businesses.  Details should not be shared just because technology allows it …

Experts estimate that information about the average working adult in the UK is stored on 700 databases. They include information about people's health records, credit checks and household details. "Never before has the threat of intrusion to people's privacy been such a risk," said Mr Thomas. He said many databases were being used to good effect - such as systems for renewing car tax online rather than waiting in Post Office queues. But there can be problems, such as when the Criminal Records' Bureau mistakenly labelled thousands of people as criminals. …

There were severe consequences for people if information on (a) database was out-of-date, inaccurate, or given to the wrong people, he said. He pointed to the case of a father investigated by social services after his young daughter said he had "bonked" her - it turned out he had hit her on the head with an inflatable hammer. While social services had closed the file, police and health authority records were not updated and said the man had been suspected of child abuse.

Information Commissioner's Office; Annual Report, 2005–6 (pdf).

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