The Government’s Data Protection Bill is supposed to give us more control over our personal information.
But buried in the draft law are a few words that could strip millions of us of our rights.
It includes an ‘immigration exemption’ giving the Government the power to remove data protection rights from anyone whose details are processed for “effective immigration control”.
Not only will this create a two-tier data rights regime giving migrants fewer privacy rights than British citizens, but it’s so vaguely drafted it could leave us all worse off.
Together we can stop this happening.
When the Data Protection Act 1984 was passing through Parliament it contained a nearly identical clause. It was widely and rightly condemned and never became law.
This is just as oppressive, unwanted and unnecessary in 2018 as it was then.
If MPs let this become law, they’ll turn the clock back on decades of progress in protecting our privacy and human rights.
Tell your MP to stand up for our rights and remove this clause from the Data Protection Bill.
Take action - Email your MP
What this could mean for your rights
"Proposals in the Data Protection Bill will undermine trust in public services by removing privacy protections and turning more public sector workers into immigration officers."
Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation
We all have the right to know how our personal information’s being used. And data given for one purpose can’t be used for another purpose without our consent. These are two of the cardinal principles of data protection.
This exemption undermines those principles completely.
“Effective immigration control” is such a vague definition that it’s impossible to know just how many of us will fall foul of this loophole.
If the immigration exemption gets through Parliament, any agency handling our data for immigration purposes – including private companies like G4S – will no longer be required to protect our personal information.
We’ll lose our right to know what information they have on us, who’s looking at it and why.
We won’t be able to erase any of that information or object to it being used for a new purpose – even though lots of data held on us is out of date or simply wrong.
It could make it much easier for Government departments to share our details with other departments or private companies without our knowledge – let alone our consent. The Home Office could decide that sharing sensitive information to check everybody’s entitlement to healthcare, education or social housing was necessary for “effective immigration control”, for example.
It could also stop people finding out what information the Home Office holds about them – a right that’s vital for solicitors working to help people regularise their immigration status.
Giving the Home Office the power to decide when people can access their own information is a full-frontal attack on migrants’ right to access justice.
Expanding the “hostile environment”
"Even from a Government with a track record of fostering division and sanctioning discrimination, this is a particularly brazen expression of how low they will go to bring border control into our everyday lives, no matter the cost."
Martha Spurrier, Director of Liberty
Since 2010, the Government has waged a vicious battle on the human rights of undocumented people in the UK through a set of policies known as the ‘hostile environment’.
Frontline agencies secretly sharing people’s personal information with the Home Office has become the cornerstone of this brutal approach.
Liberty, investigative journalists and others have exposed secret deals between the Home Office and the Department of Health, Department for Education and the Greater London Authority – all set up to aid immigration enforcement, with no public consultation or parliamentary scrutiny.
The Home Office is a notoriously poor data controller – which makes this all the more disturbing.
A 2016 investigation by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration found that, of a sample of 169 refusals to open bank accounts, 10 per cent were wrongly refused on grounds that people didn’t have leave to remain in the UK. Some had been in the UK lawfully for more than a decade.
Already people are avoiding seeking help because they fear being removed from the UK.
The Data Protection Bill’s immigration loophole would give the Government free rein to further undermine the walls keeping immigration enforcement out of our trusted frontline services – extending this regime of suffering and fear.
Together we can stop this. Tell your MP to scrap the immigration exemption today.