Government Agrees To Indian Move For British Driver Data

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The government agrees to allow IBM to undertake a ‘Passage to India’ for personal data belonging to British drivers

The government has apparently ‘secretly agreed’ with IBM that sensitive personal data on all 43 million drivers in the UK can be accessed offshore in India.

The data move is part of cost cutting measure by IBM, not the Government, according to a report in the Observer.

Controversial Move

The move was revealed after IBM, which runs the congestion charge zone for Transport for London (TfL), lobbied for a change to allow the data to be moved to a cheaper storage location.

The move is controversial because sensitive data from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), including credit card details, home addresses and registration plates, will now be moved outside the UK.

The government apparently approved the decision following a review by ministers.

However it seems the decision was not publicly announced, and the Observer cited union sources from the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union as saying that it appears neither IBM nor DVLA were planning to tell anyone about it.

The government reportedly approved the decision despite an IBM risk assessment that warned of the risk to the security of sensitive data. It was also feared the changes would reduce the ability of staff to quickly deal with problems in congestion zone systems.

The move of British driver data to India is expected to be completed by 18 May.

Jobs threat

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka responded to the news by calling for an immediate halt to a consultation on whether to close the driving agency’s 39 registration and enforcement offices in the UK.

“We’re doubtful it’s a mere coincidence that this comes as the DVLA is planning to close these offices and we fear it could pave the way for further privatisation and offshoring of DVLA services,” said Serwotka. “It therefore casts the public consultation on these proposals in a whole new light as it appears neither IBM nor DVLA were planning to tell anyone about it. The government should call an immediate halt to the DVLA’s plans and ministers should explain to MPs and the public exactly what has happened and what are the implications.

“As well as the threat to people’s jobs and livelihoods, there are serious questions about the security of the personal information the company holds and has access to, and if the transport secretary has indeed signed this off we need to know why, given it appears to be at odds with the commitment his cabinet colleague Chris Grayling gave to parliament,” Serwotka said.

Plans to close the 39 offices, threatening 1,200 jobs, were announced by the DVLA in the run-up to Christmas.

The PCS also pointed to the fact that in November 2011, the union fought off an attempt by HP to offshore sensitive data it held about people entitled to benefits and pensions payments.

Labour MP John McDonnell was also quoted as saying the decision to offshore this sensitive information database will not only cost jobs, but it will also open up vast opportunities for fraud.

Last week the Lloyds Trade Union (LTU) branded the decision by Lloyds Banking Group to offshore 503 IT jobs to India as ‘disgraceful.’