Feeds

Brown pledges annual commons debate on surveillance

And says freedom auditors will protect our liberties

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Gordon Brown today accepted MP’s recommendations for an annual report and debate on the state of UK surveillance in a speech which rejected charges that the government’s increasing use of high-tech surveillance compromises British citizens' liberties.

He also said the government was considering subjecting all new UK legislation to something called a “freedom of expression audit”.

Brown’s speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research came in the wake of Tory front bencher David Davis’ triggering a by-election to force a debate on civil liberties. Davis claims that traditional British liberties are under threat from a government intent on extending the amount of time terrorist suspects can be detained, and obsessed with the ID card scheme, CCTV, and including as many people as possible on the DNA database.

Brown said today that “We absolutely accept the challenge set down by the Home Affairs Committee: that we must demonstrate that "any extension of the use of camera surveillance is justified by evidence of its effectiveness.”

In addition to the government’s own proposed CCTV safeguards, Brown said “We are happy to accept the Committee's recommendation that the Information Commissioner should produce an annual report on the state of surveillance in the UK for Parliamentary debate.”

However, while Brown accepted the proposals for an annual debate on the UK’s surveillance apparatus – at least where it involves CCTV - the rest of the speech was a defence of CCTV and the other technologies which prompted the committee to consider whether the UK is indeed sleepwalking into being a surveillance society in the first place.

The prime minister argued that terrorism was the “most dramatic new threat” facing the UK in the 21st century, with organized crime, drug trafficking and illegal immigration all close behind.

All four were not new, he accepted, but had become increasingly complex and global, as the world itself had become more global and interdependent.

Brown claimed, “It could be said that for too long we have used nineteenth century means to solve twenty first century problems. Instead we must have twenty first century methods to deal with twenty first century challenges.”

And this, inevitably, means technology. Brown justified the government's record on and plans for DNA databases, CCTV, and the use of biometrics for ID cards and passports.

Paralleling David Davis’ appeal to traditional liberties, Brown rehashed some Newish Labour traditions, saying the ID card scheme was not about increasing the power of the state, and insisting that public support for the ID card scheme remains strong, “despite years of exaggeration about its costs and its implications for liberty”.

Brown said that citizens were not alarmed by the government's demands for biometric data, saying this was proved by the fact that “many people now have laptops activated by finger-scans.”

On CCTV, he argued that “it actually helps give them [citizens] back their liberty, the liberty to go about their lives with reassurance.”

Brown rounded off his speech with a shopping list of ways in which the government has “advanced the liberties of the individual” saying, that in the last year, “we have given people new rights to protest outside Parliament, made it easier for people free of charge to exercise their right to Freedom of information – and we are now considering a freedom of expression audit for all legislation.”

Traditionally it was the judges, MPs, and stroppy private citizens which were the guardians of freedom in this country. What a relief that motley crew can all pack up and go home and leave the job to the Freedom Auditors in future. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Spies, avert eyes! Tim Berners-Lee demands a UK digital bill of rights
Lobbies tetchy MPs 'to end indiscriminate online surveillance'
How the FLAC do I tell MP3s from lossless audio?
Can you hear the difference? Can anyone?
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.