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Saturday 8th December 2012 | 00:01
Big Brother Watch press release
Public authorities including hundreds of councils, Transport for London and Sussex Police have seen their access to the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) databases either suspended or revoked, leading to a stark warning from privacy campaigners.
The figures, exposed by privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, show in total 294 public and local authorities had their access to the DVLA databases either temporarily suspended or terminated during the past three years. (1st September 2009 to 1st September 2012)
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “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.
“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.
“The question is whether these suspensions hinder staff trying to do their job, while the 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.”
The news comes ahead of the publication of a key Parliamentary report on the draft Communications Data Bill, the Home Office’s plan to require internet companies to store details of emails, website visits and social media messages.
Pickles said: “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.”
YouGov polling (http://research.yougov.co.uk/news/2012/10/31/communications-data-bill/) for Big Brother Watch found 71% of the public do not trust data collected under the plans will be kept secure, with just 6% of the public saying the Home Office had made a clear and compelling argument for the new powers.
The DVLA holds a range of information on drivers and vehicles, including details of convictions and penalty points, relevant medical information, the address cars are registered to and details of every vehicle’s make and model.