Rowntree Report on Database State

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust has today published its report ‘The Database State’. The report purports to amount to the most comprehensive map of central government databases yet created. In total 46 databases across the major government departments were considered in the report, including, for example, the national DNA database, the national pupil database, the NHS detailed care record system and the automatic number-plate recognition system. In summary, the report concluded that:

  • a quarter of the 46 databases reviewed were ‘almost certainly illegal under human rights or data protection law; that they should be scrapped or substantially redesigned’ (including, for example, the Contactpoint index of all children in England and the national DNA database – on the latter database, see further the January 2009 post on the Marper case);
  • ‘more than half have significant problems with privacy or effectiveness and could fall foul of a legal challenge’ (including, for example, the NHS Summary Care Record and the National Pupil Database);
  • fewer than 15% were ‘effective, proportionate and necessary with a proper legal basis for any privacy instrusions’;
  • Britain was generally out of line with other developed countries as a result of its comparably greater tendancy to centralise and share records on sensitive matters like healthcare and social services; that ‘the benefits claimed for data sharing are often illusory’.

Along with the House of Lords Report on the Surveillance Society published in February 2009 (see further the February 2009 post on the Lords Report), this report is likely to increase pressure on the Government to reexamine a raft of policies on data collection, management and storage.

Executive Summary: