Garbage protection, muck spreading or data governance?

The multi-million pound garbage protection industry, including all those lawyers, consultants, Caldecott Guardians et al who expensively obfsucate some very simple basic principles, have much to anwer for – but Clauses 152-154 & Schedule 18 of the Coroners & Justice Bill appear to be a misjudged sledge hammer to crack a jellyfish. 

They appear to override existing legislation, including the Data Protection Act and enable HMG to insist that any personal information, however held & whether sensitive or not, including medical records, be shared with whoever the Government sees fit, with few if any substantial checks.

Whatever the underlying reality, the current mistrust of public sector data governance makes it highly likely that these clauses will fail in the Lords and set back the cause of secure sharing under good governance by many years.

That would be a great pity because unless data is regularly used and checked, errors are not found. To date, far more harm, including death and suffering, has been caused by bad or unavailable data than by that made available, whether deliberately or accidentally, to those who should not have access.

It is almost certain that, in line with reported errors rates from studies of medical and police records, up to 30% of the records being brought together in ContactPoint, the pederasts directory of potential victims, will contain errors. Some of those errors will be serious, even life threatening, were they to be relied on for decision taking. More-over, such errors come to light only when data is audited for research purposes or used by those who checked it before taking decisions – or at the post mortem because they did not. 

The intention is good but the safeguards proposed are not nearly sufficient to command credibility. My first thought is to suggest adding a joint standing committee of Lords and Commons, with a known and credible panel of advisors, to review the relevant statutory instruments before they are introduced for affirmative decision. Some might suggest leaving it to the Infomation Commissioner but one man and a seriously under-funded agency are not enough. Others will suggest doing nothing. However, the problem is not the Data Protection Act  but the slew of other legislation which forbids or mandates sharing, regardless of the wishes of the data subject (alias human being, like you or me).

Whatever your thoughts, do make your views known to your MP and also via your political party, your professional body any other channel available to you.

This legislation appears to be an ill-considered sledgehammer to crack a nut (although the legislative muddle is more like a jellyfish). But the damage caused by failure to share data in the interest of the individual as opposed to  the convenience of bureaucrats, means that I have no wish to join the ranks of those whose knee jerk reaction is to oppose rather than propose a cosntructive alternative.

However time is not on the side of rational debate.

Speak now or else for-ever hold your peace. The Bill will finish its Committee stage in the House of Commons by March 5th, before being savaged by the Lords – unless we get an outbreak of common sense and a full recognition of the consequences of the current mistrust of any central database, especially one run by Government.