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Open letter in the Daily Telegraph: Concerns with ‘information sharing’ provisions in the Digital Economy Bill

Associate research fellow at the Information Law and Policy Centre and lecturer in media and information law at the University of Sussex, Dr Judith Townend, is among the signatories of this letter published on the letters page of the Telegraph on 25/11/2016 [subscription required].

SIR – We wish to highlight concerns with “information sharing” provisions in the Digital Economy Bill.

The Bill puts government ministers in control of citizens’ personal data, a significant change in the relationship between citizen and state. It means that personal data provided to one part of government can be shared with other parts of government and private‑sector companies without citizens’ knowledge or consent.

Government should be strengthening, not weakening, the protection of sensitive information, particularly given the almost daily reports of hacks and leaks of personal data. Legal and technical safeguards need to be embedded within the Bill to ensure citizens’ trust. There must be clear guidance for officials, and mechanisms by which they and the organisations with whom they share information can be held to account.

The Government’s intention is to improve the wellbeing of citizens, and to prevent fraud. This makes it especially important that sensitive personal details, such as income or disability, cannot be misappropriated or misused – finding their way into the hands of payday-loan companies, for example. Information sharing could exacerbate the difficulties faced by the most vulnerable in society.

The Government should be an exemplar in ensuring the security and protection of citizens’ personal data. If the necessary technical and legal safeguards cannot be embedded in the current Bill and codes of practice, we respectfully urge the Government to remove its personal data sharing proposals in their entirety.

Dr Jerry Fishenden
Co-Chairman, Cabinet Office Privacy and Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG)

Renate Samson
Chief Executive, Big Brother Watch

Ian Taylor
Director, Association of British Drivers

Jo Glanville
Director, English PEN

Jodie Ginsberg
Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship

Dr Edgar Whitley
Co-Chairman, Cabinet Office PCAG and London School of Economics and Political Science

David Evans
Director of Policy, BCS – The Chartered Institute for IT

Dr Gus Hosein
Executive Director, Privacy International and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG

Rachel Coldicutt
Chief Executive Officer, Doteveryone

Roger Darlington
Chairman, Consumer Forum for Communications

Dr Kieron O’Hara
Associate Professor Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton.

Professor Angela Sasse
Head of Information Security Research, University College London and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG

Dr Judith Townend
Lecturer in Media and Information Law, University of Sussex

Dr Louise Bennett
Chairman, BCS Security Group and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG

StJohn Deakins
Chief Executive Officer, CitizenMe

Rory Broomfield
Director, The Freedom Association

Sarah Gold
Director and Founder, Projects by IF

Jim Killock
Director, Open Rights Group

Guy Herbert
General Secretary, NO2ID and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG

Dr George Danezis
Professor of Security and Privacy Engineering, University College London and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG

Jamie Grace
Senior Lecturer in Law, Sheffield Hallam University

Eric King
Visiting Professor, Queen Mary University

Josie Appleton
Director, Manifesto Club

Jen Persson
Co-ordinator, Defend Digital Me

Dr Chris Pounder
Director, Amberhawk and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG

Sam Smith
medConfidential and Member of Cabinet Office PCAG