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Campaigners raise privacy fears over EU citizens' data

19/03/19

Parliamentary Correspondent

Home Office defends memorandum of understanding with HMRC

The Home Office has rejected accusations that its procedures for sharing data about EU citizens applying for “settled status” in the UK will be in breach of the law. The accusations follow what campaigners say is the department's refusal of multiple requests to explain how it plans to use data on more than three million EU citizens potentially eligible to remain following Brexit on the basis of at least five years' residence.  

The Open Rights Group, which campaigns for digital rights, noted that the General Data Protection Regulation - implemented through the Data Protection Act 2018 - requires data to be processed “in a transparent manner”. However Amy Shepherd, the group’s policy and legal officer, said that applicants for settled status "receive no information on how their data is being processed or stored, or how it might later be used.” 

Such a lack of transparency could put off people who feel nervous about applying for settled status, Shepherd told Business Insider website.
Fears have also been raised that some EU nationals individuals could be wrongly denied the right to remain without being able to see the grounds on which the decision was made.

Veteran privacy campaigner Philip Booth said: “It really wouldn't be that difficult for the Home Office to publish far more information about how it has designed the system and the rationale it is using, as well as the individual data the applicants are being assessed on.”

To consider applications, the Home Office plans to extract data from two other departments - Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions – under memoranda of understanding. Details of the memoranda will be published when the full scheme gets underway, on 30 March, the Home Office said. This will include “guidance on how the automated data checks work".

A spokesperson told Business Insider: “The Home Office takes its data protection and data security obligations very seriously. All our data activity must be compliant with data protection legislation. We want to reassure applicants that we do not allow access to their information by any unauthorised person or body, and may only share data where it is necessary and where we have a legal basis for doing so.”

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