Government Databases - Handle With Care

In Europe and the UK one area in which legislation keeps us on our toes is data protection. So here at Shergroup we have been involved in discussions with the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority, or "DVLA" for short, on how to work with the agency to tighten up its use of the data it holds on vehicle ownership.

Our involvement comes about because we helped the Government set up an online access portal for searching vehicle ownership back in 2005. This small Shergroup brand is called "Shercar" and it remains in our view a groundbreaking tool to search the DVLA database to help enforcement officers when they track down cars that are registered to people who are subject to enforcement action.

In fact "Shercar" has been a discreet success both for Shergroup and for the Shercar community of users, who have used the data to enforce payment of judgments and orders where the car has been seized under a court order.

Shergroup's CEO, Claire Sandbrook, came up with the idea to build a system giving High Court Enforcement Officers and County Court bailiffs access to an on-line enquiry system in order to improve the process of enforcement in the English and Welsh systems. She was asked, along with other enforcement professionals, to come up with ideas to improve the civil justice enforcement system, and her idea was adopted by the Department of Constitutional Affairs (the predecessor to the MoJ). Shergroup's technical team, headed by David Asker, built the website and access controls through a simple website entry point into the DVLA database.

Prior to the system being set up it was taking four weeks to wait for a paper-based search to be returned from the DVLA. The electronic online system reduced this time down to 24 hours which means that enforcement officers can confirm whether the vehicle they have seized has a connection to the debtor. Over the period since it was first devised Shercar has built up a community of 1400+ users.

The Shercar team have been keen to work with DVLA officials to strengthen the security of the service still further and to demonstrate their commitment to comply with DVLA’s data security policies and procedures.

So imagine Shergroup's surprise to see that in the recent edition of the credit industry magazine, 'CCR', reference was made to a "heated discussion", with "complaints from representatives of the bailiff industry" about alleged unequal electronic access to vehicle keeper information.

Shergroup's position on this point is that anybody, whether it be a police constabulary, a bailiff company or a marketing firm, who wants access to vehicle data for a controlled and defined reason must approach the problem of demonstrating compliance to the standards set by the DVLA. Surely then it’s a matter for the DVLA to decide who and on what terms it wants to supply its data. Or did we miss something?

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