There have been reports this week that the parts of the Coroners & Justice Bill on information sharing that BCS raised objections to are being withdrawn. That's good news, and particularly satisfying for our volunteers and staff who worked hard and helped make it happen. However, the reports also suggested there would be a consultation, so that's more work for us! I think it will be important that we make it clear BCS is not against data sharing in principle, but that it needs to be governed properly if you're going to do it...
The other good news is that Sir Tim Berners-Lee was able to get his points across on ISP monitoring for behavioural advertising at an event yesterday in parliament. There are reports in The Register or in The Telegraph depending on your preference; El Reg clearly take some delight in the telling of their account.
None of the issues raised with ISP monitoring ultimately require further legislation to address them - as I read it anyway. The issue is enforcement of existing legislation. In the case of the Coroners & Justice Bill, one of the reasons cited for the amendments was the need to share information about a death amongst government departments, rather than having to notify each separately. That doesn't require new legislation, just a way of capturing and tracking consent in the system in line with the law.
The Data Protection Act may need some updating, and the ICO may need new powers, but the principles as enacted are pretty good really; principles that are under attack. What's at stake here is the new status quo for personal information in the private sector. If either large corporations or government departments are allowed to breach, get around or avoid good data protection practice and undermine privacy with impunity, then that is what we will all have to live with in a 'Digital Britain'. Is that really what we want?
About the author
Thoughts on membership, the profession, and the occasional pseudo-random topic from David Evans, former BCS Policy and Community Director.