*HUNDREDS of councils have had their access to the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) databases either suspended or revoked, according to information released by privacy campaigners.
Civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch said 294 public and local authorities had their electronic access to the DVLA either temporarily suspended or terminated during the past three years.
The figures were obtained from the DVLA following a freedom of information request.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Concerns about the DVLA database have been voiced for several years, but it is remarkable that in just three years nearly half the country’s councils have been suspended from looking at motorists’ information.
“The same concerns exist about a range of other databases and the public are right to be worried that their privacy is at risk across a range of Government services.”
Councils typically use DVLA information to trace drivers over parking tickets, fly-tipping or abandoned vehicles.
A clutch of Yorkshire councils were named as having access to the DVLA suspended for a short period or ended completely.
However, there were claims the information was inaccurate. Rotherham Council said access had not been suspended during the last three years and Harrogate flatly refuted its access had been closed down as recorded. Leeds Council also said it could find no record of having its access suspended.
The DVLA said it stood by the information provided to Big Brother Watch.
In a statement, it added: “DVLA takes its duties with regard to the use of its data very seriously. The Agency operates a stringent system with regard to electronic access to its data by Local Authorities, including regular audits.
“Where we become aware of any issues relating to the use of our data, we will investigate and take swift action where appropriate.”
Big Brother Watch released the information ahead of the publication of a Parliamentary report on the draft Communications Data Bill, which would require internet companies to store details of emails, website visits and social media messages which would then be available a variety of public agencies.
Mr Pickles said: “If the current system cannot even protect basic information about motorists and vehicles, how can the public have faith that a host of information about who they email and what websites they look at will be kept secure and only accessed by those who are supposed to be doing so?”