Saturday 1 December 2012

Francis Maude – Whitehall, the Guardian newspaper and Lord Leveson

The accusation against the Guardian is that it misrepresented Whitehall's policy on digital public services. Explanations later, but let's get straight to the nub of the matter now – Francis Maude says in the Cabinet Office L notice:
This is not a question of increasing the volume of data-sharing that takes place across government, but ensuring an appropriate framework is in place so that government can deliver more effective, joined-up and personalised public services, through effective data-linking.
Even to a reader who knows nothing about Cabinet Office frameworks for appropriately effective, joined-up and personalised digital public services, it should be clear that the Guardian allegedly wrongly described data-linking as "data-sharing".

If the distinction eludes you, you'll just have to take Francis Maude's word for it that data-linking is Whitehall policy and a good thing, whereas data-sharing is a disgraceful slur on him personally and a bad thing, and the two should never be confused by any newspaper hoping to hold on to its publication licence.

The preceding paragraphs in the L Notice provide the background:
  • This dispute is all something to do with the previous government's failed ID cards scheme which Mr Maude is proud to have terminated, he is the friend of civil liberties and the friend of many other friends of civil liberties such as Which? magazine.
  • What Mr Maude is trying to achieve – and what the Guardian culpably misunderstood – is "the citizen in charge". Citizens need a way to identify themselves on-line so that they can apply for disabled parking permits using Mr Maude's "quick, easy and secure" digital public services. No new legislation is envisaged, it's all going to be voluntary and stakeholders will be consulted proactively.
Data-linking is the method chosen by Mr Maude, libertarian, to put the citizen in charge, and not data-sharing. That is now so clear that, come to think of it, it is impossible to understand how the Guardian made its reprehensible mistake.

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