The benefit fraud crack-down

There’s much sounds and fury signifying nothing regarding this story (see last post).

In the mix, however, is the voice of reason, from Big Brother Watch, which explains why even those of us who are sick of benefit cheats should oppose the scheme the ConDems have planned.


The papers today all carry a story which first broke last month – the proposed use of credit rating agencies like Experian to catch people committing benefit fraud.

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.


8 thoughts on “The benefit fraud crack-down

  1. Don’t tax officials already have the skills to do ‘lifestyle analysis’? I’m pretty sure they do.

    So why not just have them do more of it, since we’re paying them anyway?

  2. Can’t see the problem with bounty hunters – that would be an excellent idea. But allowing the benfits office access to all that private information unrelated to the actual issuing of benefits – bad idea.

    • This all turns on whether you think all welfare recipients are undeserving scroungers.

      Lots of them may well be, but not all of them.

  3. Hence the need to look more closely at lifestyle.

    Take the case of the couple with 11 kids in the ‘Mail’ today – lots of references to their huge haul of luxury goods ( including, rather amusingly, ‘luxury parrots’..) as they moved house.

  4. Grudgingley I’d have to concur that not all benefit claimants are worthless scroungers, and if iDave the new court jester had thought this through it would have been obvious that contracting this task out to what will inevitably be nothing more than a collection of knuckle dragging mouth breathers will result only in the easy targets being concentrated on – as no doubt they will be paid on results.

    I had at least some hope for iDave & chums, but it appears that I’m going to be disappointed – again!

  5. In my mind, the likes of Experian etc. pry too much into the population’s affairs already; by what or on the authority of whom can they circumvent the data protection act and offer my details for sale to anyone who wants to pay for it?

    More Big Brother

    • Agreed, which is why, as well as not having any ‘loyalty cards’, I don’t pay with credit or debit cards wherever possible.

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