The sharing of personal data between government service providers offers potentially significant gains in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of public service delivery, but at the same time raises serious concerns about state intrusion and Big Brother.
Over the course of two years, Involve worked in partnership with the Cabinet Office to develop and run an open policy-making process to explore the potential for sharing more personal data in three specific areas of public service delivery.
The UK government has been grappling with the challenge of how to safely share personal data between government service providers for over thirty years. Each attempt to pass legislation in Parliament to make such sharing more effective has failed in the face of robust campaigns against state intrusion into individual privacy and fears about increased state power.
Involve worked with the Cabinet Office to develop a safe-space for different government organisations including Whitehall Departments, local authorities and non-Departmental Public Bodies to collaborate with civil society organisations on data sharing proposals in three areas. The aim of this collaboration was to explore whether, and under what circumstances, these proposals should progress into legislation.
In the interests of transparency, all meeting notes and outputs of the open policy process were published on an independent website run by Involve. That website has since been decommissioned, but its contents can be found in the internet archive here.
What we did
The process involved a number of phases and ran from March 2014 to February 2016. It examined the suitability of data sharing for three purposes, amending government proposals in these areas as it progressed. The process fed into the formal consultation process prior to the drafting and passage of the Digital Economy Bill which came into force in April 2017. The full process is summarised here.
Who was involved
Partner and funders: Cabinet Office
Participants: Over 70 organisations took part in the process including Whitehall departments, local authorities, non-Departmental Public Bodies, and civil society organisations working on issues of privacy or public service delivery.
What was achieved
The process involved a number of complex and controversial areas covering a wide range of areas of public policy and service delivery. It successfully created an environment where challenging conversations between a wide range of actors could take place leading to constructive changes to the government proposals for data sharing. It included the innovation of an independent External Advisory Group which fed into the analysis of the formal consultation responses. The Government’s proposals were finally turned into law in the Digital Economy Act, 2017.
The archived website of the data sharing open policy process includes details of the process and conclusions.