The benefit fraud crack-down
August 10, 2010 8 Comments
There’s much sounds and fury signifying nothing regarding this story (see last post).
This is a very bad idea. Nobody approves of benefit cheats. But mining private data on a routine basis on the off-chance of catching people out is a disproportionate invasion of privacy.
There’s a presumption of innocence in this country, and trawling everyone’s credit data and treating us all as suspects brings that into question. Furthermore, there is or should be a bright line between the state and the private sector.
Taking powers of legal investigation and enforcement which ought to sit with the state, and granting them to private organisations, blurs that line. Worse still, if profit-making companies are rewarded by the number of people they catch they will have a perverse incentive to sling accusations in any even marginally plausible case – because they’ll have nothing to lose and potentially something to gain in the smearing.
Ultimately, it’s probably not in the interests of the companies either. People will be far less likely to comply with their requirements in the future if it’s known that one risks such intrusion in doing so.
Credit agencies should think carefully about effectively becoming enforcers for the state, compromising private information they’ve accumulated about people.
By Alex Deane
That’s not the only reason, by the way.
Mr Cameron will also call on members of the public to report suspected cheats
Ah – so that’s going to be how the big society works is it? By encouraging more curtain-twitching, snooping and reporting?
A guaranteed provider of community cohesion and mutual trust, that.
Have a biscuit, Dave.
UPDATE: Words from the excellent Ed West at the Tellygiraffe:
And.. blow me down with a vigorously wafted mackerel, from Tom Harris, of all people.
And Grauniad’s Liberty Central.