HMRC Want To Share Your Data With Private Companies …For A Fee, Of Course
New proposals could see HMRC sharing personal tax data with private sector companies, if the plans being considered by Her Majesties Revenue & Customs (HMRC) come to fruition.
If the proposal gets the go-ahead from the Government it would allow HMRC to lease tax data to third party companies including private firms, researchers and even public bodies, earning them a nice amount of additional revenue.However, concerns have been raised over the proposals following the Care Data Initiative (CDI) fiasco where the proposed anonymous sharing of NHS medical records was suspended after fears were raised over what level of information was actually regarded as anonymous.
Conservative MP David Davis told the Guardian newspapers that the plans were bordering on the insane, stating: “The officials who drew this up clearly have no idea of the risks to data in an electronic age. Our forefathers put these checks and balances in place when the information was kept in cardboard files, and data was therefore difficult to appropriate and misuse. It defies logic that we would remove those restraints at a time when data can be collected by the gigabyte, processed in milliseconds and transported around the world almost instantaneously.”
An HMRC spokesman hit back stating that “No final decisions have been taken, and we are committed to confidentiality. The newspaper reported that charging options were being examined by officials, suggesting that firms could pay to access the data. HMRC would only share data where this would generate clear public benefits, and where there are robust safeguards in place. Last year’s consultation made it very clear that there would be a rigorous accreditation process for anyone wanting access to the data and that any access would take place in a secure environment. Those accessing data would be subject to the same confidentiality provisions as HMRC staff, including a criminal sanction for unlawful disclosure of taxpayer information.”
Emma Carr deputy director of the civil rights group Big Brother Watch said “The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification. Given the huge uproar about similar plans for medical records, you would have hoped HMRC would have learned that trying to sneak plans like this under the radar is not the way to build trust or develop good policy”
Plans to allow HMRC to begin data-sharing were first proposed last July, and a Government Select Committee, headed by Treasury minister David Gauke, have insisted that further consultations would need to take place before the proposals would be considered.
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