Consultation reveals widespread opposition to proposed data-sharing laws for government login system
Overwhelming majority of respondents voice disapproval but government will press on with plans to bring forward legislation
Credit: Andreas Breitling/Pixabay
The 60,000-plus respondents to a public consultation have, by an overwhelming majority, indicated their opposition to proposed legislation to expand government’s data-sharing powers.
But the government has, in turn, responded to confirm that will push on with new law as planned.
Draft legislation published earlier this year outlined proposals to amend 2017’s Digital Economy Act to allow greater data sharing between government entities, principally to support the operation of One Login – the new unified digital system for accessing government services.
Participants in the consultation on the proposed updates were asked whether they thought four agencies – namely the Cabinet Office, Department for Transport, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Disclosure and Barring Service – should be allowed to share data for the purposes of identity verification.
Only 4% of the consultation’s 66,233 respondents agreed that they should – with 93% opposing this proposal.
A similar proportion – 89% – disagreed that the four organisations should be able to share data “for public service delivery objectives”, with 6% agreeing.
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Among the main fears raised by consultation participants “were concerns that data protection would be put at risk by data sharing and worries that data sharing would be used to facilitate government monitoring and enforcement of individuals rather than the delivery of public services”.
Just 2% agreed that that the proposed new identity-verification regime could improve public services, offer other benefits to citizens or improve their wellbeing, with three quarters of respondents disagreeing.
Three in four answers also disagreed that data sharing would help “support the delivery of administration, monitoring or enforcement” of public services, with only 3% agreeing that it would.
Despite the consultation identifying such strong opposition, the government’s response to consultation said that the new law will be brough forward “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.
The feedback process seems to have attracted strong participation from those opposed to the introduction of identity cards.
In its response to the consultation, the government repeatedly states that the proposed legislation does not contain provisions for mandatory ID documents – nor does it intend to introduce. This has been reinforced by an accompanying FAQ document which addresses the issue head on – and in a piece written this week for PublicTechnology by Alex Burghart, the Cabinet Office minister with responsibility for overseeing the work of the department’s digital agencies.
“This is not about creating identity cards or mandatory digital identities,” he wrote. “This is an additional service, not a replacement. Citizens will retain the option to use offline services, such as by post, over the phone or in person to prove their identity if that is their preference. But the lesson of One Login so far is that where we have given people the option, people have really warmed to it – with several services using the platform and more to follow. It’s of particular importance to the government that the British public has confidence in how we use their data, so any sharing within government will be done in line with protections enshrined in the UK’s – rightly – robust data-protection legislation and guarded by our latest cybersecurity measures.”
The consultation response document reiterates that ministers do not wish to introduce mandatory identity – whether physical or digital.
“Many of the individuals who responded to the consultation said they were against digital identity in principle and against identity cards in particular.,” it said. “The consultation on draft regulations to help more people prove their identity online did not include proposals that would introduce identity cards or make digital identities compulsory. Government understands that there isn't public support for identity cards in the UK and remains committed to realising the benefits of digital identity without creating identity cards. The government’s position on physical identity cards remains unchanged. There are no plans to introduce mandatory digital identity.”
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