One of the evils of national scale centralised databases is that they are inherently anti-democratic and discriminatory in practice, even when they claim to be "one size fits all" and "everybody is equal".
This certainly seems to be so for the red tape happy HM Revenue and Customs and their counterproductive attempts to run a secret two tier tax record security system.
Why should there be any Special Categories "of individual for whom security is a higher priority" when it comes to confidential tax records ?
- Who exactly decides which individuals qualify for "special" treatment ?
- What are the selection criteria for this "special" treatment ?
- What are the de-selection criteria for this "special" treatment ?
- How can we be sure that those people who are getting Special Category treatment actually deserve it e.g. because their lives are in danger, and that they are not simply Labour political cronies or people who are buying influence within Whitehall ?
See our UK FOIA request sub-blog article:
The Information Commissioner has now issued a Decision Notice FS50216168 dated 25th January 2010::
6. The complainant wrote to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on 28 January 2008 requesting information about the tax categories of individuals for whom security is a higher priority.
'Regarding the story in the Daily Telegraph newspaper of Saturday 26 January 2008 about the security, privacy and confidentiality of tax returns and the Parliamentary Oral Answer given by the Financial Secretary to HM Treasury
Daily Telegraph 26 January 2008: Online tax system 'too risky' for the famous
1) Please list these special "categories of individual for whom security is a higher priority"
2) Approximately how many people are in each special category?
3)Who exactly makes the decision to to put someone into one of these special categories ?
4) When, if ever, is an individual removed from such a special category?
5) Does a special category extend to an individual's family as well?
6) How long has this policy of special categories been in place ?
7) Who exactly authorised this special category policy?
8) How exactly does adding an extra digit to a tax code or other special markings to a paper tax return, make it less of a target for human snooping or electronic sniffing of the data once it is in digital form? Surely this contravenes the well established security principles for handling 'sensitive' data whilst it is sharing common office or electronic network infrastructure ie that it should be indistinguishable from the rest of the data or documents, to reduce the temptation to casual snoopers ?
9) What about the previous 24 year tax record history of an individual before they become a 'celebrity' or politician etc?
10) Are these special category tax records included in the datasets handed over, through the statutory gateway, to the DWP Longitudinal Study? http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/longitudinal_study/ic_longitudinal_study.asp
11) What is the approximate annual cost of the extra infrastructure and personnel resources needed to handle these special categories?'
This has resulted in:
91. The Commissioner's decision is that the public authority did not deal with the request for information in accordance with the Act:
• it breached section 1 (1)(b) by not providing the complainant with the requested information wrongly withheld under sections 36 and 38;
• it breached section 10(1) by not confirming to the complainant within the statutory timescale that it held the requested information;
• it breached section 10(1) by not providing the complainant with information within the statutory timescale;
• it breached section 17(1) by not providing the complainant with a valid refusal notice within the statutory timescale; and
• it breached section 17(1)(b) and (c) by failing to specify and explain exemptions it later relied on.
92 The Commissioner requires the public authority to take the following steps to ensure compliance with the Act:
• disclose the list of special categories not exempt by virtue of section 23 or 44;
• disclose the number of people in each special category not exempt by virtue of section 23 or 44:
• disclose the name of the decision maker who makes the decision to put someone in one of the special categories; and
• disclose the information withheld in relation to questions 4, 5 and 9.
93. The public authority must take the steps required by this notice within 35 calendar days of the date of this notice.
Will Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs disclose the requested information,as ordered to by the Information Commissioner, or will they waste public money and our time, by trying to appeal ?
Remember that this Labour government is also trying to sneak in similar two tier systems for their other national database disasters like the Children Database or the National Identity Register etc.
If these systems are inherently insecure, then they should not be implemented in the first place.
If they are properly secure, then there is no need for a "two tier" system for "special" people.
If you are as frightened and appalled by the rise of the Database State under this dismal Labour Government, and you want to keep the political pressure on the Conservatives so that they do not forget their pre-election promises, if they do get into power in May, then please join the cross party NO2ID campaign