Sort out citizen database mess, MPs tell Whitehall

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Sort out citizen database mess, MPs tell Whitehall

Bill Goodwin
An influential parliamentary committee has called on the government to review plans to create a series of new databases containing personal details of the population.

MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee said they were concerned by the proliferation of large-scale databases across Whitehall and had seen little evidence that they were being tackled in a co-ordinated way.

"We believe that the government must tackle this proliferation of databases, examining in each case whether the number, the identifier or database is needed, what its relationship is to other existing or planned databases and how data will be shared and verified," the MPs said.

There are at least 19 initiatives across Whitehall involving the creation of new databases, sharing data between departments or validating the identity of individuals, according to research by parliamentary/industry IT group Eurim.

The select committee was alarmed by significant overlaps between the central population register planned in the Home Office's £3.1bn national identity card programme and the Registrar General's Citizen Information Project, which also aims to create a central population register.

"We have the impression that each government department is continuing with its own project in the hope that it is not going to be significantly affected by other projects," the committee said.

A separate report published by Eurim this week said there was an urgent need to appoint a single body to co-ordinate the work, eliminate duplication between departments and to ensure that projects are cost-justified.

Eurim's Jim Lound said, "We are basically questioning what the strategy is. We do not think there is one. The danger is that these things are developed in isolation from each other. That does not seem to be a recipe for a successful business outcome."

The government's priority should be to make sure that Whitehall database and identity card programmes are interoperable with each other and with private sector schemes, said Eurim.

But greater sharing of data should be accompanied by strict safeguards, including the right for individuals to be told when organisations have accessed their data and why - a concept Eurim calls "the circle of trust".

The Home Affairs Select Committee said the government had failed to develop coherent proposals for using ID cards to help the public have better access to public services.

"Citizens are still likely to be required to carry a wide range of cards and documents to use many local, national and public services. We believe this is a missed opportunity," it said.

MPs slam ID card plans >>

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