Department for Work and Pension - Inland Revenue Longitudinal Study
We are still concerned that after an inital flurry of "open government" last year, the controversial linking of social security benefits, pensions and tax data, without any individual informed consent i.e. sidestepping the Data Protection Act because of Primary Legislation, has lapsed into secrecy and obscurity
Where is the DWP-IR Longitudinal Study Ethics Committee ?
DWP-IR Longitudinal Study racial profiling
The very first use to which this combined data has been put is to create an electronic map of racial, ethnic and religous minorities, for compliance with the Race Relations Act. However, this is also an ideal tool for any future extremist government
to produce, at the touch of a button a list of addresses and a map of locations, to harass. arrest, deport or even kill such minorities.
So where are the safeguards and oversight of such a powerful system ?
Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study - Safeguards:
An ethics committee will be established to consider proposals which have a significant ethical dimension. The Head of Data Services in DWP will be responsible for day-to-day decision-making on access to the data. The Ethics Committee will monitor the decisions and will advise on those decisions which the Head of Data Services has referred to the Committee. The Committee will consider expert legal advice and will be made up of statistical and research experts as well as representatives of employers and individuals."
A year after this web page went online, and there is still no mention of who exactly is serving on this Ethics Committee, or any information about its reports or any contact details or any mechnaism for members of the public to complain.
Quarterly publication of the uses
To ensure that DWP are accountable to the public for all work on the data, an internet and paper-based list of uses (existing and new) will be published every 3 months."
There has been no update of this alleged "quarterly update" after the first quarter of 2004 - where are the missing three quarterly updates ? Even if no new uses for these controversial combined Social Security and Inland Revenue datasets have been sanctioned since April 2004, then that should be made public.
Proposed Freedom of Information Act Request for information on:
All emails, minutes of meetings and reports pertaining to the Longitudinal Study Ethics Committee.
The missing three quarterly publications of permitted uses of the Longitudinal Study Datasets.
Given the number of admitted breaches of computer security by staff at the Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions (hundreds of cases a year dealt with through internal discplinary action, rather than the virtually useless Computer Misuse Act or the Data Protection Act), how many of these incidents involved people or systems with direct or indirect access to the Longitudinal Study datsets, both at the DWP, and at the IR ?
Have the combined Longitudinal Study datasets been made available in whole or in part, in batch processing mode, or in realtime, to any other UK Government Departments or Agencies, or to any Commercial Companies, or to any Foreign Governments ? If so, under whose authority, to whom, when, why ? etc.
How many complaints have there been from members of the public regarding the Longitudinal Study ?
How many members of the public have been supplied with copies of their own Longitudinal Study data ?