The British Computer Society has lambasted proposed government changes to the Data Protection Act, which it says fundamentally undermine the right to privacy.

Throwing its weight behind the British Medical Association and other professional organisations, the BCS wants the government to fundamentally reshape proposed changes to the Coroners and Justice Bill.

In unprecedented strong language the BCS says that if implemented the Bill will "traduce" the intentions and provisions of the Data Protection Act (DPA) 1998: "in particular by devaluing the principal of informed consent which lies at the heart of the DPA".

The Society warns that the proposed legislation also "severely curtails the independence of the Information Commissioner".

The BCS warns that the proposed legislation will heighten citizens' distrust of central government initiatives "and thereby set back the efforts of Government and its agencies to provide faster, more cost-effective public services using IT".

If implemented the proposals will "damage - possibly wreck - the existing efforts of those currently trying to openly persuade citizens to accept that large scale storage, use and appropriate sharing of personal - sometimes sensitive - information will not prejudice their data privacy.

"A prime example is the development of a National Care Records Service for NHS patients."

Ian Ryder, deputy CEO of the BCS said that the attempt to introduce Information Sharing Orders as part of a much larger Bill concerned with other matters risks making it impossible to have sufficient public debate, discussion and Parliamentary scrutiny of the proposals.

The Society has consulted its members and others about data control and privacy and "the common theme of the responses ... is concern about the burgeoning power of the state vis-à-vis the citizen.

"All agree on one thing: these proposals are far too ill-defined and general for their stated purpose, and are as a result potentially dangerous, and will do more harm than good," Ryder said.

"As past experience suggests, it is unwise to rely on the benevolence of a government to sensitively deploy such wide-reaching and general powers as these. In the wrong hands, it would permit the restriction - and ultimately the destruction - of the right to personal and corporate data privacy."

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