The recent loss of two HM Revenue and Customs disks containing the personal information of 25 million people across the UK has sparked a series of investigations and warnings, including a report commissioned by the Information and Society Unit of the European Commission which said governments have to take additional steps to assure people that their information is secure.
Highlighting the need for a citizen-centric e-government, the report also warned that use of technology could lessen people’s trust in the government. It said an increasing number of people are approaching the government through technology in the form of web sites.
Frank Harris, who authored the report, said: People develop trust through judgment based on experience, whether direct or referred. He said technological interfaces have failed to generate the same kind of trust engendered by more traditional systems and processes.
Engendering trust, he said, is of utmost importance if governments are to successfully run their e-governance projects, and this requires a different level of security, even if it is a code of conduct (COD) similar to the Dutch e-citizen charter, a 10-point COD the government has pledged to abide by.
The report also said people might not realize how important technical measures like encryption are to stop fraudsters.
Harris suggested the use of more obvious methods such as kite marks, the UK’s leading product certification mark, or privacy seals, to assure people. He called for a common understanding between citizens and the government, which he said should provide information about what will happen to the information people share with it, and the steps it intends to take if there’s a breach in security.