Govt data sharing plan branded ‘attack on privacy’

Whitehall_LondonPrivacy groups have cried foul over Government plans to allow the taxman to start sharing data with town halls in a move which would enable officials to chase up council tax arrears and unpaid parking fines.
The plan, included in the controversial Digital Economy Bill, would permit data to be shared between government bodies, including Whitehall departments, agencies like HMRC and local authorities across England and Wales.
Consumers will not be able to object to their data being shared, or asked for their consent.
Campaign group MedConfidential branded the move a “wholesale attack on privacy” and added: “Town hall officials will get access to your tax records on the pretext of helping you pay debts, but they will do so without you knowing and with few safeguards.”
Meanwhile Big Brother Watch chief executive Renate Samson said: “It is conceivable that local officials will request tax records to investigate why someone hasn’t paid a council-issued fine, such as a parking ticket.”
However, the Government maintains the new powers will help recover up to £40bn owed to the State.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “None of these proposals will allow council snooping or powers to spy on people: it’s allowing one bit of government to share (existing) data with another part of government.
“We want to be able to do things like target fuel poverty to give financial support to those most in need so they aren’t cold in their homes, and clamp down hard on criminal acts of benefit fraud.”

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