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Report of the Digital Government Review

A lack of trust

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Civil servants and politicians must recognize that there is a significant amount of distrust by people in government’s use of their data. Several recent polls demonstrate this.

Ipsos-Mori for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust [62] found that:

  • 42% of people are not confident that government will protect their data
  • 63% of people disagree with the statement that “if a government department or public body holds some data about you, other government departments and public bodies should have access to that information”
  • 67% of people believe that “government departments or public bodies should never be allowed to sell data they hold about you to private companies”

Meanwhile the Royal Statistical Society commissioned Ipsos-Mori [63] to investigate data sharing and found that 44% of people were against data sharing unless certain safeguards were specified and that only 13% of people had a high trust in the British Government’s use of their data.

This mistrust is also evidenced by the individual debates on many of the recent data sharing initiatives (for example NHS, HMRC VAT, DVLA’s MyLicence scheme). It is noticeable that in these debates most, although not all, of the public concern concerns the sale of government-held data to private companies or of the risk caused by lack of anonymity or poor security.

This lack of trust is not limited to the public sector, and nor is it uniform across the public sector, but it is clearly significant and it is not reducing.

Some of the effects of this distrust will include reduced use of digital services and increased digital exclusion. It also contributes to a risk-averse approach to decision-making within the public sector, even for data sharing which does not go outside the public sector.

This distrust is sometimes well placed but in other cases it is slowing down valuable projects that can improve public services and people’s lives.

“Greater transparency is required as open and shared government data initiatives may have a bigger impact on the rights of citizens than has been anticipated” – Large Company


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One comment

  1. Peter Wells says:

    Typo corrected above. It is the *Joseph* Rowntree Reform Trust.