Data sharing legislation pulled by the UK government

By EDRi · March 25, 2009

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Deutsch: [Gesetzgebung zur Datenweitergabe von der Britischen Regierung gestoppt |]

The campaign of Privacy International and of other civil liberties groups
against data sharing legislation in UK resulted in the UK Government
decision to abandon Clause 152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

The respective clause was giving a “designated authority” the power to sign
an order allowing the sharing of information between any two agencies in the
public and private sector.

The proposed legislation raised concerns related to the possible misuse of
personal data and created a large opposition movement. In a campaign led by
Privacy International and other NGOs, an open letter addressed to Justice
Secretary Jack Straw, signed by thirty organisations on 28 February 2009
condemned the proposal as a dangerous threat to privacy, and called for the
withdrawal of clause 152 from the Coroners & Justice Bill. “In view of the
extraordinary powers conferred by clause 152, the information sharing
provisions in the Bill may constitute the gravest threat to data protection
in the history of the Data Protection Act, and are among the most
wide-ranging and potentially intrusive proposals ever laid before
Parliament,” stated the letter.

On 9 March 2009, a spokesman for Straw announced the “rethinking” of the
legislative initiative as a result of the “strength of feeling” against it.
The spokesmen stated Justice Secretary recognized that the clause had been
drafted in too wide a manner and the reason for the “rethink and a
re-consultation” was to “try to strike a balance between the positive
elements of data-sharing and ensuring that sensitive data is protected”.

Although the proposal was entirely stricken out from the Coroners and
Justice Bill, a new attempt will be made to introducing an adjusted version
in an undetermined future.

“This is an extraordinary U-turn but we cannot be led into a false sense of
security. We congratulate the Government on its decision, but it was
inevitable given how badly the clause have been drafted and how morally
corrupt its outcome would have been. Nobody should be under the illusion
that the Government has changed its colours with regard to its zeal for
surveillance. This could be merely a blip, so we all have to remain vigilant
for the next assault of privacy” said Simon Davies, director of Privacy

Privacy campaigner Phil Booth, director of No2ID was also pleased by the
decision. “People realized that their information could be taken and used
and abused for other purposes” he said, adding: “The public backlash against
Clause 152 has been phenomenal. NO2ID has been working closely with Privacy
International and others to focus grassroots and organisational opposition,
but the reality is that people just won’t put up with the hypocrisy of
politicians who want to keep their own details secret, or who support
shadowy police databases on protestors, yet who clearly still think that the
state can do just as it wants with our personal information. It can’t – the
people have spoken. Let’s hope the scrapping of Clause 152 is the first nail
in the coffin of the database state.”

However, just as Davies, he expressed some reservations, thinking the
government might disregard Straw’s position.

Straw will launch a public consultation in view of implementing more limited
proposals to allow government bodies to share information in cases when
there is clear benefit.

“We will talk to interested groups to get the balance right so that we have
the right policy issues reflected in any future legislation and at the same
time avoid worrying people unnecessarily that their data is being abused”
stated Straw’s spokesmen.

UK Government backs down on data sharing legislation after PI campaign

Government abandons data-sharing scheme (7.03.2009)

Straw bows to pressure over data sharing (8.03.2009)

UK govt to rethink data-sharing plans (10.03.2009),39044215,62052042,00.htm?scid=rss_z_nw

Civil society joins key professional bodies to demand removal of data
sharing powers (28.02.2009)[347]=x-347-563710

EDRIgram:UK Government proposes increased data sharing (11.02.2009)