Joint letter: financial surveillance powers in Data Protection and Digital Information Bill

NSUN has signed a joint letter alongside over 40 other civil society organisations to Michelle Donelan MP (Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology) expressing our concerns regarding financial surveillance powers in the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

The proposed measures involve the use of mass algorithmic surveillance to scan bank and other third party accounts, ostensibly to detect potential flags for fraud and error in the welfare system. The powers are disproportionate and raise significant concerns in the context of privacy, surveillance, data protection, and equalities.

These powers are specifically aimed at people who receive state benefits, which is about 40% of the population, as well as individuals’ accounts linked with benefit claims, such as partners, parents, and landlords. There are no restrictions on the type of information that can be requested. Some financial data may constitute information designated as special category data under GDPR. The extensive sharing of such data poses significant risks to data security, especially given the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) history of data security issues.

The Information Commissioner has stated that he does not currently view these powers as proportionate. As such, they may be unlawful and a breach of individuals’ right to privacy under the Human Rights Act.

Read the letter:
More information and take action:

Big Brother Watch are running a campaign, Stop Bank Spying, to oppose these new powers. To find out more and to sign their petition against the new surveillance powers, visit Big Brother Watch’s Stop Bank Spying campaigns page.

Foxglove are also supporting the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People to bring a legal case demanding the DWP disclose more details about the surveillance algorithm. You can support this campaign by completing the write to your MP action on Foxglove’s website.