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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Monday, May 08, 2006

    A new angle on national identity registers and ID cards

    Readers will be aware of my ongoing concerns over the use to which the National Identity Register will be put, and the issues that have to be faced when data is shared between agencies - almost certainly without the knowledge or consent of the data subject. A new issue has emerged in the united States in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Wired News reports on the problems faced by those fleeing the storm who did not wish to be found - perhaps because of a violent/abusive partner - and who were faced with placing their details on a database in order to receive aid. The story notes:
    In the storm's wake, people looking for family members or refugees turned to a disparate collection of databases, many ad hoc and several large official ones. On the Red Cross site, you could search for information using a person's name or previous phone number: information that the Red Cross took in when it registered people at its shelters.
    But what about the people who didn't want to be found? ...
    To keep abusers from finding them, victims of domestic violence often go to elaborate lengths to keep even the most basic contact information out of databases associated with voting records, supermarket club cards and change-of-address forms.
    Those fleeing Katrina, however, faced a more pressing conundrum due to mandatory forms at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross centers...
    "Domestic violence victims really had to choose: 'Do I receive FEMA and Red Cross assistance and get the cash I desperately need, or do I make sure I stay hidden in a shelter and keep my family safe?'"
    My point is that there are a number of checks and balances that need to be put in place for personal data; and sharing personal data between different government departments should not fall outside of the regulatory processes. One conclusion from the States was:
    The clearest lesson, said Peel, is that the health care system needs a method for patients to make choices about what medical information will go into a database before disaster hits.
    We all have a right to personal privacy, and we should all have a right to monitor information held about us.

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