Quarter of British government databases are illegal

A quarter of all databases created and used by the British government are illegal, and should be scrapped or redesigned, according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which "funds political campaigns in the UK to promote democratic reform, civil liberties and social justice", examined 46 public sector systems and found that 11 were "almost certainly" illegal under human rights or data protection laws.

These 11 systems include the national DNA database and ContactPoint, an index of biographical and contact information for all children designed to aid child protection. Criminal justice systems were also found to retain the fingerprints and details of those arrested, even when they had been acquitted or released without charge.

An £89 million data-sharing system being developed for the Department for Work and Pensions has already been abused by staff at 30 councils according to the trust's report, with councils making information available to private firms.

Professor Ross Anderson of Cambridge University, who authored the report, said, "Britain's database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster which is penalising some of the most vulnerable members of our society."

The British government currently spends £16 billion a year on databases that record information about it's citizens, and plans to spend a further £105 billion over the next few years, according to the BBC.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman however defended the databases, stating that the report contains "no substantive evidence", and that the government has not lost sight of its obligations under the data protection and human rights acts.

A spokesman for the Home Office said that they needed to find the balance between an individuals' rights to privacy and their ability to fight crime. He also said that DNA testing and CCTV provide "clear benefits."

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