In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Big Brother Watch, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) disclosed that the organisations were overwhelmingly local authorities, but included Sussex Police and Transport for London.
They all had access suspended, while 38 organisations saw their access permanently revoked. Of the issues identified, 156 came about because of audits of the database use by staff.
You can download the excel chart of all the organisations involved here.
Concerns about the DVLA database have been voiced for several years, but it is remarkable that in just three years nearly half the country’s councils have been suspended from looking at motorists’ information.
It is essential members of the public know why their local council, or any other body, has faced sanctions and equally the DVLA must do far more to ensure that its data is not so wide open to abuse.
The same concerns exist about a range of other databases and the public are right to be worried that their privacy is at risk across a range of Government services.
The question is whether these suspensions hinder staff trying to do their job, while the staff doing the unauthorised searches escape proper punishment. One key issue that still has not been resolved is whether someone could be sent to prison for deliberately abusing the databases they have access to and that deterrent is badly needed.
If the current system cannot even protect basic information about motorists and vehicles, how can the public have faith that a host of information about who they email and what websites they look at will be kept secure and only accessed by those who are supposed to be doing so?
The public do not have confidence that their data is being kept securely and their privacy is not being violated on a routine basis. The whole framework of how information is protected and when access is granted needs reviewing and a system that protects privacy put in place, starting with significant reform of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.