Privacy campaigners may mount legal challenge against ‘super ID database’

A legal challenge may be mounted by privacy campaigners against the Scottish government’s plans to create a “super ID database”.

The Open Rights Group (ORG) has voiced concern that plans to open Scotland’s National Health Service Central Register (NHSCR) to hundreds of public bodies, among them HMRC, may breach data protection rules and human rights.

ORG said the plans would establish a national identity database “through the backdoor” and has already taken legal advice on the issue.

The group argued the proposals are “very similar” to the UK government plans for a national ID system that the last Labour government attempted to introduce.

While that plan failed, ORG said it is concerned Scots will get a similar system without there being any debate on the issue.

In respect of a consultation on the plans ORG said: “The consultation is so bad that the Information Commissioner for Scotland has pointed out that it may be illegal in its current form.”

ORG members have said that in order to comply with article 8 of theEuropean Convention on Human Rights and the Data Protection Act 1998, the Registrar General must demonstrate that the creation of a population register is “necessary” as a pressing social need.

Critics of the proposed system point out a database in which everyone has a “unique citizen reference number”  is simply a national identity database.

In its submission to the consultation the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “Whilst the ICO are neither for nor against the creation of a national identity number per se, we do advocate against the creeping use of such unique identifiers to the extent that they could become the national identity number by default.”

The Scottish government said the system would assist in gathering population statistics in addition to making it easier for agencies to share information on children who are missing.

It added that it would help trace foreigners who use the NHS in Scotland and then leave the country with outstanding bills.

Deputy first minister John Swinney (pictured) described the criticism as “scaremongering”.

The new scheme would see the NHSCR expanded to allow 120 public bodies, among them the police, prisons, and national security bodies access to certain information on individuals.

Currently, the NHSCR gives details of an individual’s date of birth, surname, NHS number, address, GP registration and medical research information.