Open Rights Group, 38 Degrees and SumofUs handed in petitions to HMRC today, calling for an end to plans to sell access to taxpayers' personal data. The campaign groups were also joined by Liberal Democrat MP, Julian Huppert who said HMRC proposals, 'could seriously undermine the confidentiality we expect’.
Over 300,000 people have signed the petitions since it was revealed last month that HMRC was considering sharing anonymised tax data with third parties including companies, researchers and public bodies. The news followed the suspension of the Government's care.data project, which was delayed because of concerns about privacy breaches.
The campaign groups are concerned that as citizens are compelled to give HMRC personal information, it is very difficult to give or withdraw consent about what happens to their data. HMRC has statutory limitations on data sharing that go beyond normal data protection laws. The suggested proposals would weaken these limitations, giving HMRC new data sharing powers that could potentially undermine taxpayer confidentiality.
Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge said:
'Personal data can be very revealing, showing off a huge amount about who we are and what we do. HMRC should rethink their plans to sell this data off to private companies. People don’t have choice when it comes to sharing personal data with the tax office but they should be able to refuse to have it shared with other companies or public bodies. HMRC's proposals could seriously undermine the confidentiality we expect.'
Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said:
''The government may claim that it will be anonymous but it’s impossible to guarantee that data won’t be re-identifiable. We have a right to know how the government is going to use our data and who it wants to share it with.’
Susannah Compton, Campaigner, 38 Degrees said:
'Over a quarter of a million 38 Degrees members have now spoken out against these plans - and still there is no sign of a rethink or a proper consultation from HMRC. We hope that HMRC will listen, engage and reconsider.’