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Their findings reveal billions of pounds wasted on information technology projects which are badly managed and not fulfilling the role for which they were designed. Children are "most at risk" according to the report, and "major privacy or operational problems" mean private data about adults is also open to abuse. Researchers used a "traffic light" system to grade each project and a further 29 were found to require an independent review, while just six received "green light" status over their legality and operations.
The team say citizens should have the right to access most public services anonymously, while sensitive information should only shared with their consent or under clearly-defined "proportionate and necessary" legal rules. But report co-author Prof Ross Anderson said some databases penalised innocent members of society, branding them criminals without conviction and sharing sensitive information without permission.
"Britain's database state has become a financial, ethical and administrative disaster," he said.
"It wastes billions of pounds a year and often damages service delivery rather than improving it. There must be urgent and radical change in the public-sector database culture so that the state remains our servant, not our master, and becomes competent to deliver appropriate public services."