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Improving public confidence in online services

09/09/2008

An expert group has been set up to help public bodies protect individuals' privacy.

A group of leading experts has been established to help increase public confidence in IT-enabled public services, including online council tax payments, using cards in libraries or paying for parking on a mobile phone.

Reporting to Ministers, the group includes both private and public sector members. The group will develop a draft set of guiding principles for public bodies to ensure that they properly protect individuals' privacy when handling their information. Once developed, a consultation on the draft principles will follow.

Draft guidance, which will be subject to consultation, has also been launched today on the use of biometrics in Scottish schools.

Finance Secretary John Swinney said:

"The Scottish public rightly deserve effective and efficient public services. In the 21st century, IT has an increasingly important role to play in the efficient delivery of services as well as ensuring people can access services quickly and conveniently.

"While I am confident that public bodies are already working to high standards of IT security, we recognise the need to ensure public confidence in the public sector's handling of personal information.

"This expert group, appointed by Ministers, will develop a draft set of guiding principles for public bodies to help them protect individuals' privacy when handling their information ."

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop has also launched a consultation on draft guidance on the use of biometrics in schools. She said:

"We know that some schools are already using biometric technology to provide access to school meals and for other functions. Security and privacy issues are a very serious concern in relation to the use of biometrics in schools and this must be fully addressed. That is why we are issuing this draft guidance today. It will be an important tool to assist schools, with the involvement of parents and pupils, in ensuring this.

"The draft guidance will be consulted upon over the next three months and then issued in a finalised form taking account of the responses received and advice from the expert group.

"This government is committed to putting civil liberties at the heart of public services policy. It is important that schools pupils are made aware of the importance of their personal information in relation to any biometric service for school meals or library access. When using IT, we need to ensure the mechanisms involved are designed and delivered in such a way that individual privacy is respected. That is why we are developing principles to guide public bodies when designing or developing public services systems and why consultation on how we manage biometric technology in schools is very important."

The group is expected to meet regularly for six months starting by early October. It will be chaired by Paul Gray, the Scottish Government's Director of Change and Corporate Services. Its members are:

  • Ken Macdonald, Assistant Commissioner for Scotland, Information Commissioner's Office
  • Duncan Macniven, Registrar General for Scotland, General Register Office for Scotland
  • Charles Raab, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Fellow, Edinburgh University
  • Alan Kirkwood, Chair, Socitm (Society of IT Managers) Scotland
  • Rosemary Jay, Partner, Pinsent Masons LLP
  • Jerry Fishenden, lead technology advisor, Microsoft UK
  • Gus Hosein, Senior Fellow, Privacy International
  • Gareth Crossman, Policy Director, Liberty

The group will advise the Scottish Government on high level principles on identity assurance and privacy for public services which are enabled by IT. It will provide high level advice on the draft Biometrics Technologies in Schools Guidance. It will consider appropriate uses of biometric and other technologies in relation to public services in Scotland. Members will consider practical implications of the principles and make recommendations on guidance in relation to existing and new systems, covering professional and practioner roles, staff procedures and protocols; monitoring and audit and governance.

The draft biometrics guidance is being issued as systems are in use in some schools. The expert group will give consideration to some issues of principle which will provide high level advice on the draft Biometric Technologies in Schools Guidance.