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Law Commission wants more clarity on data-sharing laws

The Law Commission has called for clarity on laws surrounding data sharing in the public sector.

The organisation is responsible for conducting research that ensures the law is fair, modern, simple and cost-effective, as well as codifying the law and repealing obsolete enactments.

The Commission claims that public bodies cannot always share the data that they need to, resulting in lost opportunities to provide better services to citizens.

However, it notes the importance of protecting privacy – although the laws surrounding this issue are very complex because data sharing powers are scattered across a large number of statutes, set out either expressly or implied.

In an attempt to clarify the laws of data sharing, the Law Commission has released a report considering the hurdles to effective data sharing between public bodies, how far data sharing problems stem from the law and how can the law solve or mitigate problems.

Three recommendations for “improvement”

The document makes three recommendations on how the issues surrounding sharing information could be improved.

It claims a full law reform project needs to be carried out to create a clear legal structure for data sharing.

The Law Commission also recommends that the scope of this review should cover not only the public sector, but other organisations carrying out public functions as well.

Besides this, the organisation wants the reform to be conducted on a tripartite basis with the Law Commission of England and Wales, the Scottish Law Commission and the Northern Ireland Law Commission.

“The law of data sharing is continually under reform, but that reform is piecemeal, time-bound and adds to the complexity and confusion which make data sharing practice so difficult for those making the day-to-day decisions,” claims the report.

“In order to achieve effective, sustainable reform of data sharing law and practice, a full survey of the law and a deep analysis of both law and practice are need,” it adds.