Lords to debate surveillance report

17 June 2009

The House of Lords Constitution Committee’s report "Surveillance: Citizens and the State" and the Government’s response to that report will be debated in the House of Lords this Friday 19 June

Ahead of the debate the Committee have today published their follow-up report. They express disappointment that the Government has failed to grasp the danger surveillance poses to privacy and the important relationship between individuals and the state.

Some of the conclusions the Committee reach in their follow-up report include:

  • The Committee do not regard Privacy Impact Assessments (PIA) as a panacea for the privacy issues their report raised. They point out they are untried in relation to UK public services and argue they should be ‘treated with caution’.
  • The Government do not give enough details of how they will increase the powers of the Information Commissioner’s Office to monitor the effect of surveillance and data collection on Article 8 rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • The Committee are disappointed the Government have not accepted their recommendation that the Information Commissioner be given rights to inspect private sector organisations without their consent.
  • The Committee do welcome the Government's acceptance of their calls for an independent appraisal of the effectiveness of CCTV.

Commenting Lord Goodlad, Chairman of the Lords Constitution Committee, said:

“We are disappointed the Government has failed to recognise the fundamental importance of privacy in the relationship between individuals and the State.

“While we welcome some elements of their response we are concerned that they seem to think Privacy Impact Assessments will be enough to reassure citizens that the information kept about them is appropriate and proportionate. PIA’s have little history in the UK and until they are proven to be effective we must be cautious about the impact they will have.

“The Government should also have accepted our argument that the Information Commissioner needs greater powers over inspecting private sector organisations. The Information Commissioner should not have to have an invitation from a company to inspect their data security regime as it stands to reason that the poorer a firms data protection the less likely it would be to allow an inspection.”

Further information

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