Government plans to share data across departments could be hampered by the poor quality of government data, a cross-bench peer warned at the Infosec conference.
Lord Erroll said he was concerned that errors in government databases would lead to individuals being denied services or being falsely accused of wrongdoing. "We know that databases are highly inaccurate. There are always issues of data cleansing or information getting on to the wrong file," he said.
Erroll said he also had particular concerns about government departments trawling databases to identify anti-social behaviour, such as not paying taxes.
"The problem is that the system tries to cover up its mistakes. It is this that worries me, " he said.
Erroll said he shared the concerns of the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, that too much sharing of personal data could lead to the UK becoming a surveillance society.
Where there are grey areas, people should be free to break the rules without the risk of a central government department cracking down on them.
"Many people want to be able to bend the rules a bit at times. You pay people cash for doing work. People might help an out-of-work friend with a little bit of part-time work," he said.
Despite his concerns, Eroll said that the government's ID card programme could provide people with a secure electronic way of identifying themselves online.
"Electronic ID is the one ID we have not got at the moment. You have 1,001 ways of proving who you are - for example, with a passport or driving licence. What you have not got is something you can slot into a card reader, or stick your thumb on a fingerprint reader, to identify yourself," he said.
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