Alistair Darling’s promise to increase penalties for wilful misuse of data is a wholly inappropriate response to recent data losses. If the police are unable now to apprehend fraudsters operating from beyond British jurisdiction, such legislation will be no deterrent to further criminal activity.
Instead of diversionary legislative theatrics, the correct response is to prevent sensitive data from being exposed in the first place. That requires that HM Government stop collecting and centralising so much personal information and that Whitehall curbs its promiscuous data-sharing habits.
In stark contrast to the incompetence now routinely on display in Westminster, the Scottish Government and Parliament are to be applauded for the resolution on data protection that was passed last Thursday.
The Liberal Democrat motion – amended by the Greens and supported by the SNP and independent MSPs – will greatly improve confidence in the handling of personal information in Scotland.
The cross-party consensus resolves to seek additional powers for the Assistant Information Commissioner for Scotland; calls for government data audits to be independent and accountable to Parliament; calls for a review of Citizens Accounts; and demands that all data-handling procedures be fully compliant with data-protection principles.
Significantly, the Scottish Parliament also resolved that the Scottish Government, local authorities and public bodies should deny the Home Office access to personal information for the UK ID database.
UK ministers must accept that any case for the national ID scheme and Transformational Government agenda has been undermined entirely by the blizzard of revelations in recent weeks.
While the Chancellor’s mind is focused on data protection, he should take a firm lead. In his next statement to the Commons, Mr Darling should announce that all funding for the ID scheme will be withdrawn.
Geraint Bevan, 3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow.
Has the UK Data Protection Act been breached by the loss of the hard drive containing information on learner drivers in the US?
Who in the UK is responsible for the records while they are in the US ?
Why were the records moved to a hard disk and taken off Pearson’s secure site in Iowa?
How many copies of the data have been made in the US?
Who has them?
What are they being used for?
The Secretary of State’s reassurances that the data could be found in the telephone directories and the voters’ roll do not hold water. Large numbers of people deliberately keep their particulars off both of these publications.
Maggie Jamieson, 37 Echline Place, South Queensferry.
Each week the government loses data. Could it possibly make next week’s loss the income tax files?
John Ashworth, Woodside, Helensburgh.