Categorized | Civil Liberties

Big Brother – Part 2

Big Brother – Part 2

In August 2004 the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warned against the possibility of the UK sleepwalking into what he referred to as a “surveillance society” in which the tools of mass surveillance have become ubiquitous and individual privacy a thing of the past. In particular, he expressed concern about a raft of new Government proposals, including the establishment of a national identity card scheme, and the creation of a database containing the name and address of every child under the age of 18.

The House of Lords Constitution Committee’s report ‘Surveillance: Citizens and the State,’ after detailing specific concerns about the current situation, had this opinion in mind when making over 40 recommendations. Some relate to the Information Commission itself. There should be an expansion of its remit and more consultation by the Government. Before introducing any new surveillance measure, the Government should endeavour to establish its likely effect on public trust and the consequences for public compliance in conjunction with the Information Commissioner’s Office. The committee recommend that DNA profiles should only be retained on the National DNA Database (NDNAD) where it can be shown that such retention is justified or deserved. “We expect the Government to comply fully, and as soon as possible, with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of S. and Marper v. the United Kingdom, and to ensure that the DNA profiles of people arrested for, or charged with, a recordable offence but not subsequently convicted are not retained on the NDNAD for an unlimited period of time.”

The Government are enjoined to propose a statutory regime for the use of CCTV by both the public and private sectors, introduce mandatory encryption of personal data and undertake post-legislative scrutiny of key statutes involving surveillance and data processing powers, including those passed more than three years ago. There are several recommendations stressing the role of individuals, concluding with “We believe that the Government should involve non-governmental organisations in the development and implementation of surveillance and data processing policies with significant implications for the citizen.”

Britain does not have a written constitution, which make the twin pillars of executive restraint and individual freedom all the more important for the rule of law. Unbridled surveillance disturbs both pillars and the members of the Constitutional Committee, with their impeccable credentials, have done great service in warning of the risks undermining the fundamental relationship between the state and citizens. Very effectively they have nailed the canard that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

The report is worth a read and you can see the full text at:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldselect/ldconst/18/1802.htm

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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