Database State or Smarter Government?
The stated aims of increased data sharing are improving services to the public by joining them up in more logical ways than given by current organisational boundaries; by reducing the bureaucracy the public experience of repeat contact, and unnecessary and repeat form filling; and by giving better value for money by rationalising systems and processes. In addition, the public protection dimension (e.g. crime and disorder, child protection) is considered critical so that professional’s across service boundaries can serve the public better.
The most controversial aspect of the discussion is around the sharing of personal data. It is argued, for instance, that explicit consent from the public should be gained before any information can be shared. While it is not clear the extent to which the principle of informed consent is shared either within government or more generally by the public; the notion of the need to share data is now deeply embedded in public service delivery.
Do the stated aims of data sharing fully explain what is driving this trend? Or do they reflect the changing relationship between public and state? Is there cause for concern or should we be fairly relaxed that there are enough safeguards in place to protect our personal data from abuse?