Under plans drawn up by Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Taxpayers’ personal data could be shared with private companies. If the plans were indeed given the green light, it would then allow HMRC to release anonymous tax data to third parties. These could include companies, public bodies and researchers.
Not everyone agrees with the idea. Former Conservative minister David Davis informed the Guardian newspaper that the plans were “borderline insane”. A spokesman for HMRC said that “no final decisions” had been taken, and that the HMRC was committed to “confidentiality”. The Guardian newspaper reported that officials, suggesting that firms could pay to access the data, were examining “charging options”.
But concerns have been brought to people’s attention over the plans in the wake of the Care.data initiative (a proposed anonymous sharing of NHS medical records), which is currently in a suspended status, after suspicions were raised as to precisely what data would remain anonymous.
The initial plans to relax the laws regarding HMRC data sharing were first consulted on in July of last year. Treasury minister David Gauke is overseeing the plans and HMRC has said that “further consultations” would also be taking place.
Mr Davis informed the Guardian: “The officials who drew this up clearly have no idea of the risks to data in an electronic age…Our forefathers put these checks and balances in place when the information was kept in cardboard files, and data was therefore difficult to appropriate and misuse…It defies logic that we would remove those restraints at a time when data can be collected by the gigabyte, processed in milliseconds and transported around the world almost instantaneously.”
Deputy director of civil rights campaign group, Big Brother Watch, Emma Carr said: “The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification…Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy.”
In response to this information, a HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place…Last year’s consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment…Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information.”
What do you think? Should this kind of sensitive information become available to persons other than whom you intended it for? As always, if you would like to leave a sensible comment, then please do so in the comments section below.
[Image via telegraph]