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Digital Economy Bill needs more transparency, Information Commissioner says

UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham recently told MPs that, if the UK government wants to access citizen’s private data without their consent, the entire project needs more oversight.  During an evidence hearing this Thursday, she touched on the subject of the Digital Economy Bill, which at one point states that government agencies should be able to better share citizen’s data among themselves. The bill claims this will combat issues such as public sector fraud, but for Commissioner Denham, it is lacking. 

“I think if you are not using consent as a basis for sharing information – as in the case here – then other obligations arise: the need for transparency, the need for safeguards, the need for scrutiny and need for Parliamentary oversight ... [They] are even more important when you are not relying on consent ... so those other obligations need to be strengthened,” The Register cites her saying. 

"What would help this bill is if there was a reference to following our privacy note of practice which is across the public and private sector, and I think it would lend more trust to the public,” she also said. She’s not the only one voicing such concerns. Technologist Jerry Fishenden shares the same views, and so does Mike Bracken, former head of the Government Digital Service. 

“Adding more sharing without a clear landscape under which that’s happening seems to add more risk of privacy violation, and more risk of security. Perhaps a way to think about it is access rather than sharing. Many government departments are able to provide individual data points, at point of request, to people who trust them,” he said. 

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