Once upon a time this scam would have resulted in ministerial resignations/sackings:

Eight years ago the government had a plan so good it couldn’t tell you about it. It wanted to scrape everyone in England’s entire GP records and put them on one central database, where they would be anonymised – well, sort of! – then made available for research purposes to third parties, including private corporations. And called it[…] [Description of the fiasco/climbdown follows.]

And hey, the government learned its lesson. Which is to say that eight years on – literally right now – it’s doing the same thing, only in less time, without a public awareness campaign, with a trickier opt-out, and in the middle of a global pandemic. […]

The opt-out process described here is longer and fiddlier than you might hope for, but that’s mostly because the government has designed it to be complicated. That can’t really be helped, given that we’re dealing with this government who are utterly shameless about this stuff.

For the avoidance of doubt: data being shared to help medical research is, in principle, a good thing. Data being quietly handed over to commercial entities who can and almost certainly will hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ to obscure the efforts they’ve made to ‘unlock the pseudonymisation codes’ is not.

If you’re in England this potentially affects you. Go here for a step-by-step guide on how to opt out of this data giveaway. Also, go and read Marina Hyde’s article if you want to relish quality snark like…

Post its collapse, the plan was described by one statistics professor as “disastrously incompetent – both ethically and technically”. Which sounds like the sort of review Mary Berry would give on Bake Off to a roulade made entirely of human ears, but which arguably has even wider implications.

… in context.