Published on August 5, 2014

Response to Telegraph Article on Data Sharing Process

By Simon Burall

Simon Burall is a Senior Associate of Involve. He has extensive experience in the fields of democratic reform, governance, public participation, stakeholder engagement, and accountability and transparency.

Yesterday the Telegraph published an article claiming that the government has plans to share “details of the financial history, qualifications and property wealth of millions of Britons” across Whitehall. I believe this article misrepresents the open policy making process that the Government is currently undertaking. Here’s the response I sent to the editor yesterday:

It is ironic that your article ‘Revealed: Whitehall plans to share your private data’, purports to identify premature judgements of policy makers on data sharing; as this is somewhat premature reporting in itself. The proposals you highlight are based on a Cabinet Office document published back in February at the early stages of an open and transparent policy making process. This is an imaginative departure from the way Government normally makes policy. My organisation, Involve, is helping to convene the external organisations taking part in the process. All parties recognise that secure, proportionate sharing could improve public services and save taxpayer’s money, but that strong, appropriate safeguards are required. This approach is working. Government is listening and there have been significant changes to the proposals since then, all of which are made public on www.datasharing.org.uk. Francis Maude, the Minister responsible for this work, is directly engaged and has made it clear that work is unlikely to progress without consensus. Currently my view is that allowing this subject to be explored is helping those outside of government to influence and shape future policy.  It would be a shame if this new approach was undermined by reporting that suggested that the Government is trying to slip these changes through when quite the reverse is true. While it is too early to say whether this attempt at open policy making will work, I worry that reporting which fails to reflect the process accurately increases the risks that it won’t. 

EDIT: 5 August 2014

Owen Boswarva has helpfully noted on twitter that the article refers to this discussion document published in April rather than the initial meeting which took place in February.

EDIT: 6 August 2014

Comments are now working again, apologies if you were trying to post and couldn’t.

2 Responses to “Response to Telegraph Article on Data Sharing Process”

  1. Mary
    August 5, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Is this blog or http://www.datasharing.org.uk the official channel for publishing Cabinet Office discussion documents such as that on data sharing?
    I cannot find it – or any mention of it – on the Cabinet Office website – and there are no links to datasharing.org.uk
    Could I suggest that the Cabinet Office publishing discussion documents (with no formal attribution) on an obscure website hardly represents transparency or a desire for any public response.
    Perhaps you could elaborate on Twitter?

  2. @TheABB
    August 9, 2014 at 6:34 am

    The link appears to be down to the April meeting? Please restore and publish if possible? Many thanks. http://datasharing.org.uk/current-proposals/

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