This open policy process is intended to support civil society organisations, independent experts, and government departments to explore the benefits, risks, limitations and governance for sharing personal data within government.
The Government is keen to explore whether some of the barriers to sharing and linking different datasets in government can be removed in order to develop a better understanding of the economy and society, deliver more targeted and joined-up public services, and save public money lost through fraud, error and debt.
While the Government anticipates several benefits from simplifying the data sharing process and move beyond a complex system of often esoteric regulations, it is also aware of citizens’ concerns over privacy. There is awareness among ministers and civil servants alike that any changes need to be developed through an open and transparent process to maintain citizens’ trust and support. Proposals need to be designed in such a way as to guarantee safeguards for people’s privacy and the protection of their data.
Involve is coordinating a diverse range of civil society groups and experts to collaborate with government stakeholders to jointly develop a policy paper (which could become a White Paper). The Cabinet Office Data Sharing Policy Team coordinate governmental actors involved in the process. The paper will be the result of working groups examining the costs and benefits of data sharing and the conditions under which it should/ should not be allowed, as well as specific safeguards that need to be put in place.
Involving such diverse perspectives from inside and outside Government is likely to translate into diverging views on certain issues. The policy paper will highlight areas of agreement and disagreement and include both proposals where there is broad consensus among all the actors and proposals where competing ideas have emerged. Transparent cooperation is expected from all involved and the process is based on three main principles:
While the main focus will be on immediate policy issues, where Government controls personal data, our work will also cover wider issues that might require further analysis in the future. Once signed off by working groups, the policy paper will undergo a public scrutiny process to guarantee public engagement and outreach on the issue.
While the focus of this work is data sharing across Government departments, it does not involve the care.data initiative which is led by NHS England. An outline of initial ideas and proposals from the Cabinet Office can be found on the Current proposals section of the website.