[Dave Birch] There’s a thought-provoking piece on data sharing over at Ideal Government.  They refer to the "Transformational Government" agenda that is based on using shared data to present services in a personalised way.  The example given is online car tax just uses the necessary: MoT, DVLA, insurance and credit card for identification – with clear citizen satisfaction and support.  But I wonder about this.  If we collect data together in order to share it, then we are building in vulnerabilities.  If we’re going to have workable national identity management scheme, then we have to tackle this problem head on and come up with a workable solution that balances privacy and sharing, not put faith a vague hope that it will be alright on the night.

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Here are a few more examples of government data sharing in practice…

Five civil servants who help run the national DNA database have been suspended after being accused of industrial espionage.. It is alleged they copied confidential information and used it to set up a rival database in competition with their employers, the Government’s Forensic Science Service.

Two national newspapers paid to receive confidential information from the police national computer, a court heard yesterday.  Articles from the Sunday Mirror and the Mail on Sunday were used in evidence against two former police employees and two private investigators charged with offences involving the sale of police information to the press.

>The Mail on Sunday has now forced the DVLA to hand over its list of 157 firms which can buy personal information about drivers at £2.50 a time. All the companies need do is tap in a registration plate, and back comes the full name and address of the vehicle’s owners.  The dossier shows that details of millions of drivers have been made available to bailiffs, credit control companies, debt collection agencies, property management firms, leisure centres, solicitors – and even one of the world’s biggest loan and financial services companies.

An internal investigation at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has found that civil servants are colluding with organised criminals to steal personal identities on "an industrial scale".  Ministers have been privately warned that the investigation will show that hundreds of thousands of stolen personal details have been ripped off from official databases, often with inside help. Key personal details such as national insurance numbers can be used to commit benefit fraud, set up false bank accounts and obtain official documents such as passports.  One government figure said: "We have been told that DWP staff have been colluding with organised criminals to commit identity theft on an industrial scale. It is far wider than just tax credits and reaches right across Whitehall."  The sheer scale of the potential abuse was underlined by a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies which found that government departments hand out state support to 2.1 million lone parents – even though the best estimate is that Britain has just 1.9 million single-parent households.

This story is bit ridiculous, but mildly amusing nevertheless.  AN MP has told of her concerns after a six-year-old Hampshire girl hacked into her computer in the House of Commons.  It took the youngster, from Winchester, who has little knowledge of computers, just 15 seconds to seriously breach security using a simple USB keylogger.  The information she "could have" (my quotes for emphasis) gathered after successfully bugging Tory MP Ann Milton’s computer includes confidential passwords, top-secret files and sensitive personal details.  As part of a BBC investigation the girl smuggled a £50 keylogger into one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the country.  Once inside, the producers of Inside Out convinced Ms Milton to leave her computer unattended for just 60 seconds. Within a quarter of that time the youngster had successfully fitted the device.

Whether public or private sector, staff or customers, public or private people, our thinking on identity and identity-related data is muddled.  I would argue that a clear vision, based on a digital identity model that can be understood by all relevant stakeholders (iincluding members of the public) is a necessity, and an urgent necessity.

These opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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