The Information Commissioner is right to be concerned about the proliferation of data sharing. Unfortunately, the idea that the risks can be mitigated if only people are aware of their rights is misplaced. The biggest danger is the notion of “transformational government”. This is the driving force behind the national identity scheme that will entail the creation of a vast National Identity Register, specifically designed to help spread data more widely.
New passport applicants are being summoned to attend the interrogation centre in Blythswood House where, as well as facing the prospect of having biometric data scanned and recorded, they are confronted with personal dossiers compiled from a host of databases. The main purpose of these interrogations is to tidy up existing databases to aid the creation of a national register.
It is not sufficient that we know our rights. As far as the government is concerned, we have none. The Data Protection Act does not prevent the government from sharing data whenever it believes that to be in the public interest. What government department ever believes any of its actions are not in the public interest? We must all take responsibility for protecting our personal data, but that requires that we learn to say no when asked for too much information unnecessarily. We should prepare to say no when summoned to participate in national identity registration. We can start by writing to our elected representatives and telling them that we intend to refuse to participate.