Say No To A Scottish National Identity Database: Take Part In NHSCR Scotland Consultation
The Scottish Government and National Records of Scotland (NRS) are proposing amendments to the National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) (Scotland) Regulations 2006; an electronic database of everyone in Scotland registered with a GP, containing the names and addresses of around one third of the Scottish population. The proposals would allow the Register to hold extra postcode data, and for some data to be shared with around 120 other, publicly owned bodies. Amendments would also expand the creation and implementation of a Unique Citizen Reference Number (UCRN).
This is eerily similar to Labour’s scrapped 2006 Identity Cards Act, which the SNP had opposed. It’s quite probable that this latest revival is not malicious, but rather just misguided. It’s up to us to let the Scottish Government know they’re making a mistake.
Scotland already has an ID card system to some extent. The National Entitlement Card (NEC) is run by NRS who also administer the NHSCR. When you sign up for a card, you are automatically assigned a UCRN. As well as targeting student cards and elderly bus passes, UCRNs are also assigned at Birth Registration and during NHS interactions. The planned changes to the current legislation would rollout UCRNs for all citizens and link these with presently held name and address details. All 120 or so public bodies in Scotland would have access to the Register for checking, matching and updating. The UCRN very quickly becomes a national identity number, potentially enabling unprecedented social profiling capabilities.
This national identity number would allow the state to link and cross-reference various health, education, travel, tax, criminal and other records. Metadata is context. Government could use this information to target people. This represents a significant infringement of privacy. Vulnerable people would be most at risk. The potential for abuse is too high. How long before the database was used to identify political dissidence and civil disobedience? Anonymity is important. Inadvertent or not, this is part of the wider attack on civil liberties and personal privacy and security. It’s also a big step towards ID cards. It’s a slippery slope and we must take action now to defend our freedoms and raise awareness to oppose increasing surveillance.
As well as privacy concerns, there is a danger that this also negatively impacts health provisions in Scotland. There is no choice but to participate, or to drop out of civic society. Some people might choose to avoid the database to protect their private information, similar to how thousands left the electoral register to avoid the Poll Tax.
Far-reaching changes like these should not be hidden away in a short, obscure consultation: they should be debated fully, democratically and transparently in the Scottish Parliament, with proper full-scale consultation, of the public and civil society, a wider Privacy Impact Assessment, and if necessary the introduction of primary legislation. Why should David MacBrayne Ltd have access to my sensitive personal data? What reasonable justification is there for sportscotland to have access to our private information? Far too many organisations would have access, and without good reason. In the post-Snowden era, ushering in policy like this by the backdoor is not a good example of ‘Accessible Government’.
You can take part in the consultation here, or by following this link until 25-Feb-2015: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2014/12/5990/downloads#res464870. I’d also highly recommend reading Open Rights Group Scotland’s Draft Consultation response here, or by following this link: https://scotland.openrightsgroup.org/policy/2015/02/02/a-national-id-system-by-the-backdoor:-thenhscr-scotland-consultation/.
Hat-tip again to Open Rights Group Scotland and No2ID for bringing this to wider attention. Open Rights Group Scotland are also hosting meetings around Scotland to discuss this further, in Aberdeen on 16-Feb, in Glasgow on 17-Feb, and in Edinburgh on 18-Feb.
Proposals to expand Central NHS Register creates a national population register and significant data protection/privacy risks http://amberhawk.typepad.com/amberhawk/2015/01/proposals-to-expand-central-nhs-register-creates-a-national-population-register-and-significant-data.html
#No2IDScotland #privacy #security #surveillance