Government consults on plans to reform public sector data sharing

The government proposes changes to the current data sharing framework to make it easier for public sector organisations to share personal data, and improve public services.

The changes would allow public sector organisations to share personal data with other public agencies in specific contexts in order to improve the welfare of the individual in question. In addition, the proposals would enhance use of de-identified data for research purposes.

The government also aims to tackle fraud. Data sharing would benefit from the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which allow the access to the minimal necessary information.

The Cabinet Office says that the proposals do not mean building a new, large, and permanent database, or collecting more data on citizens, or amending the Data Protection Act; in other words existing data sharing arrangements would not be affected.

It is proposed that the legislation would introduce criminal penalties applicable to (non-Crown) public authorities and undertakings if they fail to comply with a notice they have received without reasonable excuse. ‘Where a person intentionally provides false information in response to a notice, they will face a criminal penalty of two years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.’

The proposals would create two codes of practice that would be laid before Parliament.

The consultation runs until 22 April.