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Sharing Is Good In the Right Situations

Sharing Is Good In the Right Situations

Sharing data has always been at the heart of the digital revolution. But now it seems that ‘sharing’ is taking on even more significance, even if it’s a one way sharing.

Helping Businesses

When small and medium enterprises (SMEs) go to the banks for lending, very often a ‘computer says no’ mentality stops loans being made, and therefore prevents many businesses from expanding.

The Government is now set to address that. There is to be an SME credit database created to help lenders make ‘more informed decisions’ about prospective borrowers.

They have been piloting the idea through HMRC and companies’ individual VAT payment data has been shared with credit rating agencies to bulk out the data already known. Previously most tax data was confidential.

Data from business registers, local authorities, social security helps inform credit ratings, but there can be wide inconsistency with determining what is a real risk from a given company, whether they can be trusted with a loan or not.

Banks also employ centralised decision-making systems, so the range of verdicts on loans can often be wide, even on the same company from different banks. Credit limits, repayments, interest rates and even whether a loan is viable should be consistent and transparent, runs the new thinking.

Benefit to Very Small Businesses

Particularly for small businesses, the problem can be acute. It is the individual owner who is judged rather than his/her business. The personal credit history of people as consumers is informing decisions, not the history of their micro-businesses. The Consumer Credit Act, not the business records.

Clearly, banks have to protect their investments and a wide range of sources of data are needed. Under the new regime they should be looking properly at a wider range of information. How about if more decisions were made locally on the ground by bank managers who live in the same community as the business and know local issues, as used to be the case before the computer era?

Not So Healthy Sharing

On the NHS front, new sharing initiatives are not so beneficial. Banks having more data including tax returns is one thing. The NHS sharing confidential medical information is quite another.

The theory and the argument being made is that doctors, health researchers and resource managers could ‘save someone’s life’ by securely sharing personal and private information.

And that may be so. But what has been regarded as a gold standard of patient confidentiality is to be watered down to what campaigners against are calling merely ‘a fair processing notice – a leaflet or poster in your GP’s reception.’

All patient objections to having their data shared is to be over-ridden. As it stands, anonymised data is sold to drug companies for research purposes and few could object to that. If you have an accident away from home, you are glad when the hospital can access your data from your own GP to treat you better.

But this development goes far further. Now ‘identifiable records’, sensitive medical and personal details are to be shared for purposes ‘outside medical care’.

What does that mean? Advertising, presumably

If they have your personal health records, companies can sell you treatments, ointments, pills, devices, lifestyles and advise you from their superior position of knowing all about your health conditions. Parents who have taken their children for checkups or as a result of illnesses can be targeted directly with products not prescribed or recommended by doctors.

Isn’t it an appalling thought? Or are you cool with it?

Share your thoughts, if not your data.

Other posts to share around:

When Campaigning for Web Freedom Gets Real, Dirty and Personal, 11 February 2013

Big Data Is Big News, Big Opportunities and a Big Problem, 30 January 2013

Digital Health Shapes Up to Be a Financial Winning Marketplace, 12 November 2012

Weathering the Data Storm: The Strange Case of the University of East Anglia ‘Climategate’ Scandal,  24 July 2012

The NHS and New Technology, 25 January 2012

Image: Tom@HK