Feeds

UK minister: 'There must be a limit to what the gov knows about its people'

Justice Minister Tom McNally talks to The Register

Security for virtualized datacentres

Any new British privacy law will have to protect citizens' privacy from the government as much as from the media.

That's according to UK Justice Minister Tom McNally, who was speaking on Data Protection Day at an event organised by the Information Commissioner's Office. McNally discussed the new defamation and privacy legislation that the ministry is mulling over in light of the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of the British press.

New technology has raised the stakes, McNally said:

[I]n a free society there should be a limit to what the government knows about its people. And now, the capacity of the state to do that is almost limitless.

The Register asked him afterwards how law-makers will attempt to regulate fast flowing conversations on social media sites such as Twitter. Several high-profile Twitter-related defamation cases have hit courts recently.

McNally said he wanted the new law to reflect the benefits of the internet as well as the risks it poses, and said the new legislation should not affect the "quality" of conversations on social media sites:

We have to be able to use these tools in a way that makes for regular conversation, and it has to take account of the speed that people communicate at.

McNally said that when the government decided that the internet was a valuable asset to society and "chose not to impose restrictions" on it in the 2003 Communications Act, it made the right decision. Current legislation under the Act gives the government the power to suspend communications networks and can be used to lock up abusive Facebook posters, and was used to convict Paul Chambers, the man who tweeted a joke about blowing up Doncaster airport, though the conviction was later overturned.

Asked whether defamation as a legal concept would be defined differently online, McNally reiterated the comments of the attorney general who stated in in November that defamation on the internet is still defamation. But the Minister's mention of "real harm" opens up the possibility that could be different ways of assessing what counts as real harm on the internet compared to in traditional media.

When it comes to defamation there should be that same pressure that there is on the press, but we should focus on "real harm".

But there is no quick fix in law-making for the internet, said the minister:

I always say to my colleagues - if you know the piece of legislation that can correctly govern the internet, let me know about it.

®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International
Refusal to disclose GCHQ canteen menus and prices triggers Euro Human Rights Court action
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Heavy VPN users are probably pirates, says BBC
And ISPs should nab 'em on our behalf
Former Bitcoin Foundation chair pleads guilty to money-laundering charge
Charlie Shrem plea deal could still get him five YEARS in chokey
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.