One in four UK databases are 'illegal', says study

London, Mar.23 : One in four of British Government databases is almost certainly illegal and should be scrapped, a study says.

Researchers of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust called for 11 systems assessed as "almost certainly illegal" under human rights or data protection law to be scrapped or substantially redesigned.

The study, according to the Guardian, also pointed to significant legal and practical problems with a further 29 databases, including the national childhood obesity one and the planned NHS summary care record system, and said they should be reviewed independently.

Privacy experts were asked to compile the report after two discs listing the entire child benefit database went missing in 2007.

Researchers said data-sharing should be authorised only for strictly defined purposes, and said sensitive personal information should be collected and shared only with the individual's consent.

The report's co-author, Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, said: "Britain's database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster which is penalising some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Often, computerisation has been used as a substitute for public service reform rather than a means of enabling reform. Little thought is given to safety, privacy and value for money."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We recognise the absolute necessity of striking the balance between the rights and privacy of the individual and the ability to disrupt, prevent and investigate crime effectively. That is why the Home Secretary [Jacqui Smith] has made it clear that a 'common sense' test must be applied to every action in this area to make sure it is proportionate, transparent and robust safeguards are in place."

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