UK MPs report: A Surveillance Society?

By EDRi · June 18, 2008

(Dieser Artikel ist auch in deutscher Sprache verfügbar)

A report of the Home Affairs Committee shows concerns that Britain
might be in danger of becoming a Big Brother type of state and calls on the
UK ministers to take the necessary measures to provide safeguards and
minimize the amount of the citizen’s information collected and stored in

The report shows concerns especially in relation to the ID card scheme that
might be used to spy on people. “We are concerned about the potential for
‘function creep’ in terms of the surveillance potential of the national
identity scheme. (…) Any ambiguity about the objectives of the scheme puts
in jeopardy the public’s trust in the scheme itself and in the government’s
ability to run it” says the Committee in its report.

The Committee made some recommendations asking for further
assurances that people would not find themselves subject to unnecessary
intrusion from the authorities. “We recommend that the Home Office produce a
report on the intended functions of the national identity scheme in relation
to the fight against crime, containing an explicit statement that the
administrative information collected and stored in connection with the
national identity register will not be used as a matter of routine to
monitor the activities of individuals.”

The report also recommends a data minimisation policy so that only what is
essential should be collected and stored for as long as necessary. Although
the Committee considers the new national DNA database as a “valuable
investigative tool” for the police in solving crime, in the light of the
recent data losses, warns the Government on the responsibility it bears
towards the very sensitive data involved. The report asks for “greater
assurances from ministers that the government will protect people’s data
after the recent loss of information, including two discs containing details
of half the population. (…) Assurances that the government has learned
lessons, though welcome, are not sufficient to reassure us or, we suspect,
the public.”

What the committee also suggests is the creation of a major new database,
the sharing of information, the use of increased surveillance only in
circumstances when there is a proven need and the focus on security and
privacy in any system.

One of the problems observed was that of CCTV cameras. UK seems to have more
cameras in public spaces than any other country in the world and the
Government seems to have completely lost control over them. While the Police
has recently accepted CCTV cameras are not very efficient in cutting down
crime, their number has continuously increased. The committee calls for a
greater transparency in the use of the cameras and wants assurances that
“the techniques of intrusive and directed surveillance will not be applied
to the general public”. It also says the Government must not attach
microphones to cameras.

Moreover, the report sets ground rules for the Home Office that should raise
awareness of how and why the surveillance techniques provided for by the
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) might be used.

The Committee also recommended that the Information Commissioner should
present an annual report on surveillance to the Parliament that should
receive a response from the Government also presented in front of the

“The key issue is trust – the public don’t have much choice over the data
held on them by public bodies, so they must be confident about how it is
being collected, stored and used – otherwise we are in danger of becoming a
surveillance society” said Committee Chairman Rt. Hon. Keith Vaz.

MPs must act now to set limits on snooping (9.06.2008)

ID cards could help turn Britain into a surveillance society, warn MPs

MPs propose new safeguards for Government uses of personal data (9.06.2008)

A Surveillance Society? – House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 5th Report
of Session 2007-08 Vol I

A Surveillance Society? – House of Commons Home Affairs Committee 5th Report
of Session 2007-08 Vol II