More than 3,000 signatures have been collected in a petition against the proposed sale of HMRC data.
The petition, organised and hosted by the Open Rights Group, calls on the Government “to halt plans to sell personal tax data to private companies and researchers”. It says “anonymisation is not foolproof and it is my right to object to my information being shared in this way. Any access to my personal information held by the government should only be given after my explicit personal consent.”
The petition follows news reported at the weekend by the Guardian, officials are examining “charging options”, according to HMRC documents. It said that critics fear the data could include details about income, tax arrangements and payment history and would carry a risk that people could be identified.
The Open Rights Group said that claims that the data will be “anonymised” is impossible to fully guarantee as in practice, data will often be reidentifable. “Use of personal data without consent is meant to be against data protection laws. Unfortunately, this Government wants to sell access to many different personal data sets. Each time they try to do it it’ll be dangerous and morally wrong,” it said.
“We have a right to decide what happens with private information about us. It would be extremely hard to gain meaningful consent for reuse of tax data as you are required to give it to the state.”
The news follows the delay to the NHS Care.data scheme, which proposed a similar concept of sharing patient records through a central database to third parties, but was pushed back to August.
In a statement, an ICO spokesperson said: “Late last year we responded to HMRC’s consultation on the sharing and publishing of anonymised data by the department. In our response, we stated that public authorities should be able to use the information they hold for the wider public benefit, provided any disclosure done to achieve this is handled responsibly and the privacy risks are properly assessed.
“Anonymised taxpayer information should only be released in a controlled way with safeguards in place.”