Public Administration and Data Interchange


Joaquim M. da Cunha Viana (Portugal)


Data is more and more available, within Public Administration Offices, in the Health, Employment and Social Security sectors. The interchange of these data between these Departments is, on one hand, very important in order to reduce stress upon people that need the services, and on the other hand, quite sensitive to handle and manage.

This paper tries to analyse the organizational changes ethics implications related to the improvements already achieved and those that are at reach right now but not yet implemented, in what concerns collection and interchange of data between the Portuguese National Health Service, Social Security Service and IEFP – Instituto do Emprego e Formação Profissional – the Portuguese Employment Agency.

People reaching for these offices are normally, either physically or psychologically fragile and in the cases of unemployed, very often, financially diminished. The interchange of data between offices allows these people to reduce the travelling between, consequently reducing the necessity for more traumatizing interviews, during which, the already fragile persons have to open their lives to civil servants with all the resultant humiliation and money spending.

On the other hand, that kind of interchange leaves the door open for the unethical utilization of personal data by unscrupulous elements that might access to it. Information as sensitive as someone’s health records and/or unemployment situation should never become public unless otherwise stated by the person herself.

This tells us about the need for new and adequate legislation regarding the protection of personal data within the public databases and, above all, the definition and implementation of effective control mechanisms, capable of guaranteeing law enforcement