Government departments could share personal health and financial data with energy companies

 

Proposals in the Digital Economy Bill could see private energy companies being given personal data, including information about UK citizens’ health, housing and finances.

The Bill aims to make it easier for low income households to get discounts on their energy bills. To do this, it has been proposed that energy companies should be automatically notified if customers are entitled to discounts.

Previously the Government has claimed that this would not involve the sharing of personal data with energy companies. However, as energy companies all have different criteria for who is eligible for a discount, this might not be easy to achieve. The proposals as outlined in the Digital Economy Bill do not rule out the automatic sharing of raw data. This would include data about households who are not even entitled to a discount.

Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:

“Previously the Government has said that it won't hand over our data to energy companies but the wording of the Digital Economy Bill tells a different story.

“Energy companies only need to know that a customer is entitled to a discount; it’s not necessary for them to know what they earn, how many children they have or whether they have a long-term health condition.

“Under the current proposals in the Digital Economy Bill, we could see the wholesale transfer of personal information from government departments to energy companies.

“The Government can’t automatically share our data just because their system for determining who gets help is a mess. ”


Open Rights Group is calling on the Government to:

  • Put in place consistent criteria for working out who is entitled to discounts on their energy Bills
  • Amend the Digital Economy Bill so that it is clear that the only data shared with energy companies is whether someone is entitled to a discount.

For more information, read ORG’s blog on the issue or contact press@openrightsgroup.org