The Information Commissioner has published guidelines on information-sharing (pdf) for local authorities. Worth reading the whole thing – it’s only 3 pages.
Amongst the paragraphs that particularly caught our eye are:
“Our starting point will be to look at the effect of information sharing on individuals. If there is no risk of real unfairness or unwarranted detriment, we will not seek to use our powers to prevent the sharing”
“Some information, for example that relating to a person’s health, is considered particularly sensitive and most people would probably expect their consent to be obtained prior to it being shared”
…which makes it sound like a matter of picky, personal preference rather than something intimately connected with the Data Protection Act 1998.
We strongly recommend some essential bank holiday reading: the section on data protection, and the circumstances in which ‘sensitive’ data can be shared, contained in Chapter 7 of the FIPR report (pdf) to the ICO on children’s databases. Douwe Korff manages to make this traditionally fearsome area of law easy to follow.