20 July 2009

UK - Right to privacy broken by a quarter of public databases

A quarter of all the largest public-sector database projects, including the ID cards register, are fundamentally flawed and clearly breach European data protection and rights laws, according to a report, Database State by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. The report says that 11 of the 46 biggest schemes, including the national DNA database and the Contactpoint index of all children in England, should be given a "red light" and immediately scrapped or redesigned. Only six of the 46 systems, including those for fingerprinting, get a "green light" for being effective, proportionate, necessary and established - with a legal basis to guarantee against privacy intrusions. But even some of these databases have operational problems. A further 29 databases earn an "amber light", meaning they have significant problems including being possibly illegal, and needing to be shrunk or split, or be amended to allow individuals the right to opt out. This group includes the NHS summary care record, the national childhood obesity database, the national pupil database, and the automatic number-plate recognition system. The study is by members of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, including Ross Anderson, a Cambridge University professor. It says Britain is now the most invasive surveillance state and the worst at protecting privacy of any western democracy.