Government rejects Lords' surveillance criticism
Puts fingers in ears and goes "la la la"
The Government has rejected claims that it is conducting too much surveillance on citizens and has said that it has got the balance between surveillance and liberty right. It has rejected many recommendations recently made by the House of Lords.
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution issued a stinging rebuke to Government in February, claiming that over-surveillance was breaking the trust between Government and the people, and that intrusion into people's privacy risked undermining democracy itself.
It said that judicial oversight of surveillance must be introduced, but the Government has rejected that proposal.
The Government has issued a point-by-point response to the Lords' claims and says that it does balance privacy on one hand and protection and effective service delivery on the other.
"The Government respects the privacy of its citizens," said the Government Response to the Lords' report. "We take the protection of their personal information extremely seriously and we are committed to handling it safely and securely."
"It is essential that we all understand that the Government must strike a balance between the right of the public to their privacy, their right to the more effective delivery of public services and their right to protection from crime and terrorism. This Government will always take a principled and proportionate view of what needs to be done to protect the public and respect individual privacy, and will flex our approach where necessary," it said.
The Government has refused to extend to the private sector the power of privacy regulator the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to inspect public bodies' privacy and data protection systems. It would only say that it would "listen" to the arguments for extending that power.
"There are sound arguments for applying a higher level of scrutiny to public sector bodies," it said. "The citizen cannot shop around for a service provider with different data protection standards. However … the Government will continue to listen to the arguments made in support of extending assessment notices to the private sector and react accordingly."
A report into Government data handling recommended that public authorities conduct impact assessments when adopting policies or measures that could affect privacy. The Lords Committee called for these to be published, but the Government rejected that call.
"While departments are encouraged to publish their privacy impact assessments, it may not be appropriate to publish a privacy impact assessment in full or at all in certain cases, for example, where the privacy impact assessment contains sensitive or confidential information," it said.
The Government rejected outright the Lords' demand that the ICO be involved in the legislative process. "We … recommend that the Government should be required, by statute, to consult the Information Commissioner on bills or statutory instruments which involve surveillance or data processing powers," the Lords' report had said.
The Government said that this raised constitutional problems. "It is the responsibility of the House[s of Parliament] to scrutinise legislation and for this reason we do not consider it appropriate to introduce a statutory requirement for the Government to consult the Information Commissioner at this time," said the Government. "In practice, departments routinely consult the Information Commissioner when legislation could have implications for privacy or the protection of personal data."
The Lords also said that surveillance should be subjected to judicial oversight, but the Government said that this was not needed.
"We recommend that the Government consider introducing a system of judicial oversight for surveillance carried out by public authorities and that individuals who have been made the subject of surveillance be informed of that surveillance, when completed, where no investigation might be prejudiced as a result," said the Lords' report.
"The Government believes that the current system strikes an appropriate balance between the need for operational effectiveness on the one hand, and safeguards necessary to protect privacy," said its response.
"Where individuals believe powers have been used inappropriately, they can take their case to the IPT [Investigatory Powers Tribunal]. If the Tribunal upholds a complaint it is required to notify the complainant and make a report to the Prime Minister. It may, if appropriate, quash any warrant or authorisation, order the destruction of relevant material or order compensation," it said.
The response is available here (pdf).
Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
I'm becoming concerned....
There have been times when I have felt it appropriate to remonstrate mildly with those whose vocabulary seems to be limited to basic (very) Anglo-Saxon.
More and more I now find myself thinking at least, in those very same terms & colloquialisms whenever the current (mal)administration is mentioned.
Since I am now only too aware of the effect that any mention of the current apology-for-a-government induces in even the most mild-mannered, might I offer sincere apologies to those I have berated unfairly.
As for the miscreants in the Palace of Westminster, may a herd of dysenteric elephants crap on the entire gang of wankers from an exceedingly great height, and drown the disgusting fuckers in a sea of semi-solid shit.
There - I'm still perturbed, but I can't think of a better way to express my feelings.
The Government attitude is now starting to piss me off!
"The citizen cannot shop around for a service provider with different data protection standards." That is more true than they can possibly know. The Government sets the standard - and a pretty low one it is - for interaction with web services. If it can't get security right when it can throw taxpayer levels of wealth at a problem what chance or possibility does the private sector have.
The Government is incompetent and should withdraw from the battle. It should reduce it's attempts to mess with subject/citizen ID and focus on getting right that which it is capable of getting, and competent to get, right.
In the end it is the bill payer who must, axiomatically, foot the bill. I resent, beyond words, some Whitehall, Bank Hall or Town hall clown telling me about how secure things are when sieves provide better protection than the standards and the implementations of the wankers employed by them.
Is the real government of the UK the police?
Title says it all.
Wakki Jakki is being conned by her cop shop advisers, stupid woman that she is. After all, she is a former teacher of .... political science? no.... theory and practice of state surveillance of innocent citizens? no.... history? no .... database design and security? no. She taught _cooking_. She needs to go back to teaching children how to make omelets.
It's clear that once Parliament is purged of dross, the next group to be dealt with should be the police.
[Apologies to Our Divine Moderatrix for using "woman" in a pejorative sense.]