UK Police And Companies Will Have Access To Database Of All England's Medical Records

from the privacy-disaster-waiting-to-happen dept

The UK government is currently building a database called that will contain all of England’s medical records. It’s being promoted as providing valuable information for healthcare management and medical researchers that will lead to improved treatment.

Given the extremely sensitive nature of the material that will be stored, you might have expected this to be opt-in, but instead the UK government has chosen to make it opt-out. Not only that, but the relatively sparse information about what was happening was sent in the form of a generic, unaddressed letter that differs little from the dozens of junk mail pieces received by most households each week, and failed to include any easy-to-use opt-out form.

This has fuelled suspicions that the UK government is making it hard to opt out in order to keep the numbers enrolled in the database as high as possible. More recently, good reasons why people might want to avoid the scheme have emerged. For example, it was revealed that as well as being provided to research scientists, the database could also be bought by companies:

Drug and insurance companies will from later this year be able to buy information on patients — including mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits — once a single English database of medical data has been created.

Now we learn that the UK police will also have access:

The database that will store all of England’s health records has a series of “backdoors” that will allow police and government bodies to access people’s medical data.

As the UK MP David Davis told the Guardian:

“The idea that police will be able to request information from a central database without a warrant totally undermines a long-held belief in the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship,” he said.

That means that as well as the risk of a privacy disaster of unprecedented proportions if the consolidated health data is lost or stolen as a result of being passed to third parties (as has already happened with a similar but smaller database), patients may be less likely to confide in their doctors knowing that details will end up in a database sold to companies and freely available to the police. Nice work, Mr Cameron.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “UK Police And Companies Will Have Access To Database Of All England's Medical Records”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not the same. The Indians started as many fights against the white man as they started against the Indians. For the most part, it was a 2-way war where one side just happened to have well-advanced technology. In Germany, it was genocide against someone who wasn’t even fighting.

Plus, I don’t think there were even 6 million Indians in the US to kill.

I'm_Having_None_Of_It says:

Re: Re:

Except that the pharmaceutical companies need us to be sick in order to make money from us.

The profit, I presume, is to pay for the building of the database now that he’s given all our money away to the rich so they can hide it in offshore accounts. Apparently, this was supposed to trickle down to us, but I’ve seen none of it so far.

As you Americans say, “Follow the money.” If the trail leads to a Tory MP with a directorship or relative in the company involved, it’s a fair bet that the profit will be going to him or her.

Trails (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The whole undesireables thing is a means to an end though. Fascism is about control and the will of the state.

The state needs a bogey man to blame problems on. They pick a minority group which the broader population is already uncomfortable with (typically for irrational reasons), and demonize and dehumanize them. Once they do it to the Jews/Gays/Arabs/whoever, it’s much easier to get away with it for others. Slippery slope, etc…

Mimbly says:

Re: Access to medical data

Hitler made a database for his death list. All the undesirables .
Our government have harvested much information already from surveillance of our private data
Think about it, facebook, twitter etc. They know many’s political views, search your ancestry type databases give them your complete family ” racial” status, now health records complete the picture. Now what on earth could the ” police” do with our records? Add surveillance drones with ” corporate” entities in charge. We do not have a bright future

Anonymous Coward says:

To a certain extent one can understand the need for governments to have comprehensive/systematic data about it’s population – take census information for example, it identifies demographic trends, emergent social groups, and can be essential in providing the provision of public planning and delivery of essential services i.e schools, hospitals, public infrastructure, etc

However, i think this principal becomes fairly dubious when it isn’t automatically anonymized – there is no reason to keep individual records with unique markers on a database – it poses threats to personal privacy, and given the fairly rampant abuses of trust we’ve seen from various government agencies, i see no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt that the information won’t be inappropriately accessed/compromised in some capacity.

Also; the unique interpretation of ‘opt-out’ is a fairly Orwellian linguistic creep, it’s an interesting (if not frightening) example of the ways in which language can be manipulated to obscure understanding and debate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Canada has removed the mandatory Census we had every since 6 years or so, now it’s mandatory and scientists at Stats Canada who compile actual useful data are now being prevented from doing their job, like many other scientists working for this joke of a “conservative” government. It’s more like the Canadian wing of the Likud (anybody aware of Harper’s little escapade in late january will know what I mean right here).

‘Taxpayer money could be used to have scientists put up stats we ideologically disagree with hence cannot be reasoned with! Slash budgets/cancel programs/close down veterans and Canada Oceans libraries, throw all that data in the garbage! (tons of scientists have garbage dumped to get literally tons of knowledge going back to 1800’s) while the government promises it still has one copy of each of these books and will digitize them. How much do you guys bet they will then only sell that data which used to be public domain afterwards?

Anonymous Coward says:

My province in canada (health = provincial responsability in .ca, americans who are all about states rights should look at how much power provinces have here) did this shit last year, at least, building a database where all doctors and pharmacists can have access to your file. They sent people opt-out sheets. I filed it. Then I wasn’t home but a civil servant from the health ministry called me a couple times to ask me why I didn’t want to be part of it….I didn’t call back, I wrote in the reason in the “Comments” part of the form.

Even if I filed that form, it said something that my privacy wouldn’t be as protected as if I had filled that form about a year before. (they didn’t word it this way, but I wasn’t as protected as the people who knew about it a year before there was ANY publicity about this in the media) meaning obviously that all health workers like docs, nurses and the others obviously had a chance to fill the form before said date, i think it was march 2012 and I filled the form in 2013. I forgot what extra protections filling the form before march 2012 did, but it was such an obvious HAHA FUCK YOU to anybody who procured the form online after that date (those mailed to people did not have this information).

Anonymous Coward says:

Setting up a database of everyone’s medical records isn’t as controversial as it sounds, in the UK, all the doctor offices and hospitals are owned by the government, all the doctors and nurses and government employees. So it makes sense that the government has the records, since they own the hospitals, so how can they not have access to the records in some part of the government?

But that being said, to then allow warrantless access to the records, and selling the data, that’s a much different story. While selling the data might make sense if you remove basic identifying info from it to keep it anonymous, since there are legitimate uses of it, the police having warrant-less access to the database is not. Plus, throwing backdoors into the database for the cops makes it less secure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I like having an account at multiple pharmacies. Had I signed this bullshit form from my provincial government, all pharmacies would be able to see what I do with the others and take away my rights to do business somewhere for certain med and do business at another place for other things. Using more than one pharmacy and having a pharmacist know it unless you have a good reason (I was leaving the hospital with a script and you guys don’t open until 9 am, they were open at 8 am), and be confronted about how “did you go to a different pharmacy for this medication last week?” (mildy controlled medication, diazepam, not even a painkiller). Of course the c**t female pharmacist (fem pharmacists are the worse, at least when dealing with males) considered me a suspicious drug seeking junkie and called my main pharmacy about this purchase. Well I never went back to their business, even if they open an hour earlier than the pharmacy I deal with the most, which is right in front of my condo.

aldestrawk says:

This is actually a good idea as long as the records are anonymized well enough. Anonymization of medical data can be difficult when dealing with rare diseases or medical conditions. Let’s take a look at how the system handles this.

“Your date of birth, full postcode, NHS Number and gender rather than your name will be used to link your records in a secure system, managed by the HSCIC. Once this information has been linked, a new record will be created. This new record will not contain information that identifies you. The type of information shared, and how it is shared, is controlled by law and strict confidentiality rules.”

See, the database will not contain information that identifies you. Problem solved.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am getting really pissed of with the opt-out mentality instead of the opt-in………..its just another form to take choice away, and they must think they are such clever bastards………one thing i can assure them for sure, they are NOT clever

So what happens to the MAJORITY of people who dont even KNOW aboit it, where was THEIR choice, will you then make the argument to future protests that
“Well, many people have signed onto it already, so it must be ok”

Fucking predictable fucking behaviour

GEMont (profile) says:

Gambling on death made easy.

Drug and insurance companies will from later this year be able to buy information on patients — including mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits — once a single English database of medical data has been created.

Not surprising at all, since corporations now take out insurance on their employees such that, should an employee die on the job, the company wins a huge insurance settlement.

This has become common practice and by getting the government to make all the medical records legally available to the corporations, they can better determine which employees are most likely to die on the job and thus can place their bets better.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...