NEW THREAT TO MEDICAL PRIVACY
During all the controversy about government NHS reforms (which in general NO2ID can have no view on), one question has gone almost unnoticed. What is happening to personal medical information?
The Coalition Agreement said: ‘We will put patients in charge of making decisions about their care, including control of their health records,’ but as NO2ID has previously pointed out, nothing much seemed to change when they came to power. In England and Wales, Primary Care Trusts were given the OK to continue uploading personal records to their central databases on the basis that anyone who failed to object in writing had consented.
Even though the National Programme for IT is widely acknowledged as a disaster (see ID in the News, below), the idea of sharing patient information continues to entrance the Department of Health, and to be lobbied for by organisations such as Dr Foster, whose business it is. This has implications for the stalled NHS changes in England and
Wales. Please write to your MP and ask them to look carefully at Part 9, Chapter 2 of the Health and Social Care Bill.
This would establish a new NHS body, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (confusingly, an organisation of the same name already exists), which would be a clearing house for information of all kinds, with the details to be decided later:
cl.251 (1) ‘The Secretary of State or the Board may direct the Information Centre to establish and operate a system for the collection, analysis and publication or other dissemination of information of a description specified in the direction.’
cl.252 (2) ‘Any person (including a devolved authority) may request the Information Centre to establish and operate a system for the collection, analysis and publication or other dissemination of information of a description specified in the request.’
Of course managing the system (however it is organised) requires information standards and management information. But unless there are some strong privacy protections built in, the Bill would establish a bureaucratic entity whose only function is to traffick in information without limit, and whose natural clientele cares nothing for medical confidentiality. We should demand those protections are put in now.
… AND A NEW NATIONAL IDENTITY SCHEME (PERHAPS)
It has been widely reported that the Cabinet Office is planning ‘ID cards without the cards’. That is certainly an oversimplification of the new plans for an Identity Assurance scheme. The precise details of what is being done are obscure, though a pilot is supposed to be operating by this October. NO2ID has been asked to comment on the scheme, but as yet we have not seen very much that can be commented on. No-one should be allowed to suggest we endorse it.
The scheme could be harmless. It might conceivably be a good thing. But it could also be very dangerous. If it turns out it can be used by government departments and other large organisations to fix identities and share information about people, it is inevitable that is how it will be used. This needs watching closely.
New NO2ID newsletter editor (still) required
Sorry for the gap. We are relaunching the newsletter now, though we still have to find someone to take over as editor. It is not a technical or literary role, but internet and writing background is preferable. Please contact Guy at email@example.com if you are interested in joining a team to do the job
Treasurer & Secretary
Thanks to all who came forward offering to take up the role of Secretary. Mara MacSeonin (firstname.lastname@example.org) has bravely agreed to take on that role, and will be working to expand our links with other organisations. We still lack a Treasurer, though, to oversee funds and fundraising (and liase with, but not be, the accountant). The ideal person for the role will have finance experience and be able to attend the occasional central meeting in London.
A stable structure
As long ago as 2007, the AGM recognised that the campaign would be legally better constituted if it had its own personality rather than operating as a loose club of individuals, with every member liable. We have now established a non-profit company, which formally began operation on 1st June 2011 – though the old association structure will continue to exist until members decide otherwise. If philanthropists come forward with millions, the funds will be legally safe. But there is no pot of gold yet. (Let us know if you have one to spare.) The
company directors are Guy Herbert and NO2ID Advisory Board members Andy Robson and Andrew Watson, and they are looking to establish a broad advisory council to get regular feedback from supporters and affiliates of the campaign.
EVENT – Statewatch’s 20th birthday
The campaign group Statewatch has performed great service over the years monitoring the activities of the European Union in the area of civil liberties. Its communications are a source of detailed, solidly researched, information on which NO2ID among many others (of all political persuasions) has come to rely.
We think NO2ID supporters will be interested in this event:
STATEWATCHING EUROPE: Civil liberties, the state and the EU
European Conference marking Statewatch’s 20th anniversary
Saturday 25 June 2011, 10.00 am 17.30 pm
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Book Online: http://www.statewatch.org/ordering/order.html
ID in the news
Open up the numberplate recognition camera system – Guardian Comment (17 May)
Britain has an abundance of surveillance cameras, perhaps 1.85m in total. Data on the owners and locations of these cameras is generally publicly available; speed camera sites are embedded in satnav systems, for example. Also, the Data Protection Act entitles you to obtain images of yourself on camera. These two are tied together by necessity: it is tricky to exercise your data protection rights if you don’t know which organisation has the images and you can’t say on which camera you were caught. These seem pretty sensible safeguards,
given the levels of surveillance.
However, the police appear to not agree. Police forces believe their network of 4,000-plus automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras – which in England and Wales are used to store the details and pictures of every vehicle passing a camera, with some data kept for two years – is exempt from these reasonable measures.
Government plans next-generation ID scheme – Computer Weekly (2 June):
The government has been coy about the pilot identity system it has been running with Mydex, the East London start-up whose trials with Brent Borough Council created in March what was dubbed ‘a Google moment’. …
Guy Herbert, NO2ID National Organiser, told Computer Weekly the plans as they stand might not give the individual enough power over their own data. He feared both government departments and private companies were hungry alike for power over identities and personal data. ..
Like Heath and other members of the Network for the Post-Bureaucratic Age who have played such an important part in formulating and elaborating Conservative policy to date, Herbert and the privacy lobby are concerned to see the government fulfils its policy promise to deliver more power to individuals and not to corporations.
MPs’ report slams e-Borders – Guardian (3 June):
In its report on the UK Border Agency, the committee says it is disturbed at the delays in delivery and the shape of the programme.
‘We remain deeply concerned about the e-Borders programme, given its history, the lack of clarity about the final shape of the scheme and the high (but still unquantifiable) cost to taxpayers and to carriers,’ it says. ‘We will expect rapid progress to be made in this programme by the time of the next tri-annual letter in July 2011.’
British airline passengers to US could have details kept for 15 years – Telegraph (26 May)
British airline passengers flying to the United States face having their personal information, including addresses, phone numbers and credit card details, stored for 15 years under under a proposed agreement between the US and the European Union.
Police breaking law by keeping DNA of the innocent, supreme court rules – Guardian (18 May)
The supreme court has declared that chief constables who refuse to delete the DNA profiles of more than 1 million innocent people on request are acting unlawfully…. Chief constables have continued collecting the DNA profiles of everyone arrested, whether they are convicted or not, and keeping them indefinitely on a national database. This is despite a ruling by the European court of human rights more than three years ago that it was a breach of privacy rights.
Fears over patient data as NHS computers are hacked into - Daily Mail (9 June)
Government plans to put all patients into a centralised database have already been condemned by the National Audit Office. The £11.4billion IT system was declared a disaster by experts, who warned it would not provide value for money. Tory MP Richard Bacon, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘This highlights a very serious problem which the NHS and Department of Health seem to have downplayed. It also points to further danger as we move towards centralised medical records. It will concern millions of people who want their records to be in safe hands.’
NHS IT dino-project NPfIT should be killed off – NAO – The Register (17 May)
NAO: ‘The rate at which electronic care records systems are being put in place across the NHS under the National Programme for IT is falling far below expectations and the core aim that every patient should have an electronic care record under the Programme will not now be achieved.’ Auditors noted that even where programmes have been delivered they’re not fulfilling all the functions promised. And even though the number of systems has been significantly reduced there has not been a similar cut in costs.
Local Groups News
The size, influence and activity of NO2ID’s local group network is unique amongst single-issue campaigning groups. If you’re interested in starting a group yourself, please contact James Baker email@example.com to discuss what’s involved. Even if there is not an active group in your area, there may well be a local mailing list to keep in touch with other supporters. See:
http://www.no2id.net/localgroups/ or call the office for details.
Nick Wray has been doing a fantastic job in chasing up the ONS and trying to get some answers from them following our census campaign. A local school has also decided to start fingerprinting it’s kids, and Nick has been offering advice and support to concerned parents. You can email Nick on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to lend a hand with the work he is doing.
Saturdays 1pm – 3pm – Edinburgh NO2ID Street Stall
Every week, weather permitting, you will find our campaigning stall at the east end of Princes Street, opposite the Balmoral Hotel. Do drop by for a chat. Or contact Dr John Welford: Edinburgh@no2id.net
Leeds NO2ID held a street stall in May. The stall tried out some new leaflets based on the design Kathy from the Camden and Islington group submitted for our poster competition. There was a decent level of interest in what we were doing and we handed out of a good couple of hundred leaflets.
Rory Laing has agreed to help Nadine Omotese and act as a joint organiser for the Leeds group. There is a planning meeting in July. Anyone interested in getting involved should email email@example.com or join the list at http://lists.no2id.net/mailman/listinfo/no2id.leeds
Liverpool has a new organiser. Stephen Gradwick, a new member, has agreed to take on this role. Stephen has a lot of experience dealing with the Data Protection Act, and Freedom of Information Act and is happy to help others in making requests to reclaim their personal information, or get information out of public bodies. You can email Stephen at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the email list at http://lists.no2id.net/mailman/listinfo/no2id.liverpool
Gary Peart has taken over from Dave Page as the Manchester organiser. Dave has been a fantastic asset to the campaign over the years, and we hope he will still get involved in things when his busy schedule allows it. Gary is currently working with James, our campaigns manager, to design local leaflets they can use to promote the Manchester group – which, if successful, others will be able to copy. He is also starting some research into the cost of the ANPR network within the city. If you would like to get involved in the work
of the group please email Gary at email@example.com or join the email list at http://lists.no2id.net/mailman/listinfo/no2id.manchester
NO2ID now has a Facebook page at:
James Baker runs a twitter account on our behalf: @no2id