Data sharing in the public sector

After a series of high profile government data losses, data security is at the forefront of everyone's minds. The events towards the end of 2007 and into 2008 have led consumers and businesses to question what actions the government is undertaking to combat organised crime.

Following the initial reading in January of this year, the Serious Crime Act has been granted assent with three key provisions relating to how public authorities can help in identifying fraud. It can now disclose information as a member of a specified anti-fraud organisation for the purposes of preventing fraud; it can permit the disclosure of sensitive personal data to an anti fraud organisation without the data subject's consent and can now also support the Audit Commission's efforts in relation to data matching exercises when looking for suspicious patterns.

Crucially, it is this joined up approach to data sharing amongst public bodies that will enable us to move forward in the fight against organised crime.

In addition to the Serious Crime Act, an increasing profile has been given to the Fraud Review. In a bid to prevent criminals using the personal details of the deceased death registry information is likely to become available in the second quarter of this year and will be limited to the prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of offences.

Data sharing is possibly the most fundamental tool in preventing organised fraud. It is something that private sector organisations have done amongst themselves for many years and something that public sector will need to increasingly emulate if it is to crack down on fraud.