April 24, 2014

I’m a bit cross, actually.  How did I miss this?  I opened my newspaper at my convention hotel on Friday morning and there were the headlines: “Borderline insane: Government plans to let HMRC sell taxpayers’ details to private companies

I actually trawled back through my blog entries from last summer, thinking the consultation must have been snuck out by stealth somehow, but no, here it is in my table of upcoming consultations, except it’s called “sharing and publishing data for public benefit” which sounds both like boring policy-wonkery and also like something innocuous and cuddly – public benefit, after all.  So, yes, I missed it entirely (it closed around the time I was deep in academia, preparing and giving my first academic paper and letting bloggery slide)  So shoot me.

The thing that baffles me, however, is how it came to be a big news story on Good Friday and Easter Saturday.  What happened?  I have trawled through as many articles as google will give me, but all I can find that’s new is the quote from David Davis about the plan being “borderline insane” and he barely mentions it on his website.  Is it publicity for the play about him (Privacy, at the Donmar) perhaps?  He certainly seems to have been amusing himself in giving interviews to coincide with the production.

However I’ve read the consultation document, the supplementary document (yes, seventy thousand businesses have already had their data handed over to Credit Reference Agencies already, using the figleaf of appointing them as agents of HMRC for the purposes of a “trial”) and the responses doc.  So I’m ready, when the next round of consultation comes out.

At the same time, though, I’ve been thinking about taxpayer confidentiality and big data in other contexts – in doing some work with the Women’s Budget group and the Ekklesia think tank, as well as following the conversation at the Guardian Public Sector blog.  Rather than make one giant tl:dr post, I think I’ll come back to it over the next week or so and unpack my thinking a bit.  Watch this space!

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