The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) has announced amendments to the Data Protection and Digital Information (No.2) Bill (DPDIB). Access the full list of amendments here.
Among the amendments to be discussed when the Bill returns to Parliament on 29 November, the government is proposing to grant additional powers to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to scrutinise personal financial data in an effort to reduce benefit fraud.
Details contained in the Autumn Statement 2023 Policy paper released on Friday confirmed reports published by the Telegraph earlier in the month. The government claims the new powers will enable DWP to more effectively identify fraudulent claims, specifically those involving undeclared capital, which is the second most common type of welfare fraud, saving £300 million annually by 2028-29.
In a statement responding to the proposals, Open Rights Group Policy Manager Mariano delli Santi said: "These proposals could see people's private banking information being shared with DWP. Welfare surveillance further stigmatises people who receive benefits, many of whom already face discrimination and negative stereotyping. It could lead to some of the most vulnerable people facing unjust accusations of fraud, and potentially having their benefits removed and their lives destroyed."
On a positive note, the requirement that the Secretary of State must approve codes of practice has been removed. Instead, the amended provision now states that the Information Commissioner must consider recommendations from the Secretary of State about a code of practice before the code is laid before Parliament for approval.
Another amendment will allow Counter Terrorism Police to hold onto biometric data of individuals who pose a potential threat, supplied by organisations such as Interpol, for as long as an Interpol notice is in force. In addition, the biometrics of individuals with foreign convictions can be retained indefinitely, similar to those with UK convictions, particularly for foreign nationals with serious convictions, including terrorist offences.
In a related article for the IAPP, Director of Research and Insights Joe Jones provides a summary of the proposed amendments.
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