Feeds

Lords investigate 'unconstitutional' surveillance society

Call for evidence goes out

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The House of Lords will investigate whether the UK's "surveillance society" is unconstitutional.

The Lords' Constitution Committee has asked for evidence (doc) in an investigation it has launched into surveillance in the UK.

"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," the committee's announcement said.

In 2004, Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warned that Britain was in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. In November 2006 he said in a statement: "Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us."

With high numbers of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras per head of population, ID cards and digital passports on their way, and the creation of new databases such as that of the NHS, people living in the UK are becoming increasingly monitored.

The committee has indicated the questions that it wants answered in its investigation. "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?," it said.

The investigation will look at what effect all this data collection has on the privacy and liberty of people in the UK, and examine whether or not the Data Protection Act represents adequate protection for citizens.

"The nature and extent of surveillance and data collection have changed dramatically in recent years," said Lord Holme of Cheltenham, chairman of the Constitution Committee. "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 investigation has been launched because committee members believe that the growing trend toward surveillance has not been adequately analysed by people with citizens' interests at heart, or with an eye on the effect it has on politics.

"The broad constitutional implications of these changes have not thus far been sufficiently closely scrutinised," said Holme. "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."

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
BIG FAT Lies: Porky Pies about obesity
What really shortens lives? Reading this sort of crap in the papers
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
You think the CLOUD's insecure? It's BETTER than UK.GOV's DATA CENTRES
We don't even know where some of them ARE – Maude
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.