Privacy & migrant groups win extension on data matching powers

This week Open Rights Group along with other privacy advocates and organisations working for migrants’ rights were pleased to be informed that the National Fraud Initiative (NFI) agreed to our request to further extend the deadline to respond to the NFI Data Matching Powers and new Code of Data Matching Practice consultation until 5 May.

It had been two weeks since we had sent a joint letter to the Head of the NFI that we forwarded to the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove expressing our concerns about how the proposed measures are likely to disproportionally affect the data protection rights of vulnerable and marginalised groups specifically migrants. 

We found it concerning that given the expanded scope of these powers, the Government thought that it was okay to have only six weeks of consultation. This was far too short a period to provide for different stakeholders to respond. We also noted that up until now the consultation had been entirely within Government departments and partners to the existing initiative.

What is the National Fraud Initiative?

The NFI is ‘an exercise that matches electronic data within and between public and private sector bodies to prevent and detect fraud.’ It is managed by the Cabinet Office. The Government is proposing to widen the NFI data matching powers and update the NFI Code of Data Matching Practice:

  • to assist in the prevention and detection of crime (other than fraud)
  • to assist in the apprehension and prosecution of offenders
  • to assist in prevention and detection of errors and inaccuracies
  • to assist in the recovery of debt owing to public bodies

What are our concerns?

In our letter we briefly touched on our concerns regarding the proposed measures. These are:

  • The lack of sufficient safeguards
  • The volume of data being shared about migrants that could lead to abusive behaviour from authorities
  • The extension of the powers for crime and offenders, expanding the capacity of police to collate information from public and private bodies

We will be expanding on these concerns in our response to the consultation. We are keen to work with migrants rights’ groups and organisations on our response to the consultation. If you’re interested in collaborating with us, please email