The plans for a citizen information register have not been announced and the only official reference was a brief mention to a feasibility study in the government's consultation paper on identity cards published last July. The scheme is a joint project between the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury and is designed to ensure that "public sector organisations have the right records about the right people at the right time."
The Office of National Statistics has published a consultation document on July 10th 2003 on the whitepaer from January 2002 (submit your views by October 24th 2003) called:
I might be slightly happier if the ONS were to be in charge of such a project rather than the Home Office or the Treasury. The ONS has more of a culture of anonymising individual Census respondents data, and of not revealing this to even the Police, under penalty of 2 years in jail under the Census Act.
Their proposals do seem to recognise that the whole system will come tumbling down if people do not trust the system and have not given their explicit permission for data sharing etc, so, unlike the Home Office ID Card plans, there is actually an allusion to the need for criminal penalties against privacy abuse:
"It would become an offence to access a record where permission has been withdrawn or not provided by the individual, their family or representative. A system for monitoring compliance would be developed. These offences are necessary to maintain the security and integrity of registration records and the information they contain."
Why do these supposedly secret Cabinet decisions get leaked to the press ? If the Government cannot keep Cabinet discussions secret, why should we trust them with our sensitive personal data ?
If the Guardian article is true, then it looks as if the Government has pre-judged the outcome of the Office of National Statistics consultation process.