Sunday, 13 January 2013

DVLA FOI outcome!

The draft Communications Data Bill has been roundly criticised by the committee of MPs and Peers, who make clear that the draft Bill is not fit for purpose and unacceptable in its current form. The report makes clear tinkering and minor changes are nowhere near enough - this draft bill is unacceptable to Parliament and if there is to be legislation, it is back to the drawing board for the Home Office.

Typical of the criticisms is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority. The DVLA is the custodian of our details including car registrations and driving licenses which are contained on a database. In the past three years, 294 public organisations have faced action over their improper use of the information contained in the database.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request the DVLA has disclosed that the organisations were overwhelmingly local authorities, but included Sussex Police and Transport for London. They all had access to the database suspended. While a further 38 organisations saw their access permanently revoked.

Concerns about the DVLA database have been voiced for several years, but it is remarkable that in just three years nearly half the country’s councils have been suspended from looking at motorists’ information. It is essential members of the public know why their local council, or any other body, has faced sanctions and equally the DVLA must do far more to ensure that its data is not so wide open to abuse.

Of the issues identified, 156 came about because of audits of the database use by staff. The question is whether these suspensions hinder staff trying to do their job, while other staff doing the unauthorised searches escape proper punishment. One key issue that still has not been resolved is whether someone could be sent to prison for deliberately abusing the databases they have access to and that deterrent is badly needed.

You can download an excel chart of all the organisations involved Click Here.

The same concerns exist about a range of other databases and the public are right to be worried that their privacy is at risk across a range of Government services. If the current system cannot even protect basic information about motorists and vehicles, how can the public have faith that a host of information about who they email and what websites they look at will be kept secure and only accessed by those who are supposed to be doing so?

The public do not have confidence that their data is being kept securely and their privacy is not being violated on a routine basis. The whole framework of how information is protected and when access is granted needs reviewing and a system that protects privacy put in place, starting with significant reform of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.


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