Briefing for the Digital Economy Bill – House of Lords 2nd Reading

Our 3 page briefing is here.


Given the obstinacy of the Cabinet Office, Part 5 of this Bill has been offered on a take or leave it basis to Parliament.  If it is not improved at Committee stage, we suggest you leave it.

A major hospital in London has a deal with Google to produce an app to tell doctors which patients are in the most urgent need. This is a good thing. But to produce it, Google insisted on having a copy of main dataset covering every patient in the hospital, which is only available up until the end of the previous calendar month.  The appropriate way to get the information needed, was to get up to the minute information on the patient whose details they were going to display. However, Google wanted all the data, and insisted on it if the hospital wanted to work with them.

It’s not the creation or production of a pretty app that’s the problem – it’s the demand for excessive data in return for using the app. It’s entirely rational for the hospital to accept the app as it may lead to marginally better care for their patients; but the price is being paid in their patients’ data. The Bill applies this principle across Government: third parties want the benefits of having the data, because this Bill does not require any protections.

The Minister was asked a simple question about safeguards: “Could you explain where they are and what they look like? and no answer – because there are none.

Characterising Chapters 1 and 2, it can be said they “will have the effect of removing all barriers to data-sharing between two or more persons, where the sharing concerns at least in part the sharing of personal data, where such sharing is necessary to achieve a policy objective…”

Unfortunately for the Government, that characterisation is quoting from the Government’s explanatory notes for s152 of the Coroners and Justice Bill (para 962). Nothing has changed in Government thinking since 2009, when the House of Lords threw out that clause.

Our 3 page explanatory briefing is here.