Friday, April 27, 2007

House of Lords Committee: Surveillance and Data Collection

The House of Lords Committee has launched a new inquiry into the impact that government surveillance and data collection have upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the State. See extract at:

The inquiry, which is set against a backdrop of increased use of CCTV, the creation of the national DNA database, the new NHS Spine and the proposals for ID cards, will seek to find out if increased surveillance and data collection by the state have fundamentally altered the way it relates to its citizens. Some of the questions the Committee will be seeking answers to include:

What forms of surveillance and data collection might be considered constitutionally proper or improper? Is there a line that should not be crossed? How could it be identified?

What effect do public and private sector surveillance and data collection have on a citizen’s liberty and privacy?

How have surveillance and data collection altered the nature of citizenship in the 21st century, especially in terms of citizens’ relationship with the state?

Is the Data Protection Act sufficient to protect citizens? Is there a need for additional constitutional protection for citizens in relation to surveillance and the collection of data?

Commenting ahead of the publication of the Committee’s call for evidence, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, Chairman of the Constitution Committee, said:

“The nature and extent of surveillance and data collection have changed dramatically in recent years. We now have close to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK and with the introduction of the NHS Spine and the ID card database the government will hold more information about us than ever before. “The broad constitutional implications of these changes have not thus far been sufficiently closely scrutinised. As a Committee we hope to get to the bottom of how these changes are altering the relationship between individuals and the State, and to ascertain whether necessary protection is in place."

Perhaps, an interesting question to ask about the sufficiency of the DPA 1998 to protect citizens. The DPA 1998 provides safeguards for the collection of personal information. Whether the existing legislative data protection framework is sufficient to prevent the surveillance is questionable. Do we need toughter penalties? On the subject about additional constitutional protection for citizens in relation to surveillance and the collection of data, the first starting point would be to look at the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the ECHR and includes the"'right to respect for private and family life." Although the right to privacy is not absolute, it would be a good starting point.

See also:

No comments: