Banish Big Brother: The state’s surveillance powers must be curbed,

From: Andrew Johnson

Date: 2009-02-06 17:02:48… Banish Big Brother: The state’s surveillance powers must be curbed, say Lords By Matthew HickleyLast updated at 12:04 AM on 06th February 2009 Comments (80) Add to My Stories Peers will today demand a drastic curtailing of ‘Big Brother’ surveillance powers. They will call for reforms to stamp out abuses and to safeguard Britain’s traditions of democracy and privacy. Their report highlights mounting fears over the growth of the DNA database and the proliferation of CCTV networks. Listening in: Councils have profited from spying powers According to the constitution committee, mass surveillance ‘risks undermining the fundamental relationship between the state and citizens, which is the cornerstone of democracy and good governance’. The 130-page report claims privacy is at threat from pervasive and routine electronic spying and mass collection of personal information.   More… ANOTHER database is coming: Civil liberty campaigners angry at plans to record spot fines The public ‘are often unaware of the vast amount of information about them that is kept and exchanged between organisations’. The report said successive governments have built up an advanced surveillance system in the name of improving efficiency and tackling crime and terrorism. This amounted to ‘one of the most significant changes in the life of the nation since the end of the Second World War’. Peers cited the fact that more than 7 per cent of citizens are on the national DNA database, by far the highest proportion in the world. Lord Woolf is part of the committee calling for surveillance powers to be reduced The report also condemned covert surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Some councils have been using the secret spying powers to crack down on dog fouling, littering and families suspected of lying over school admissions. Among its 44 recommendations, the committee calls on the Government to ‘reconsider whether local authorities are the appropriate bodies to exercise RIPA powers’. And instead of the police and MI5 being allowed to authorise their own undercover operations, independent judges should be called in. Any plans by the Government to collect or process personal data should undergo a ‘privacy impact assessment’, the peers said. Full encryption of personal data stored on computers should become the norm, the report urges. The committee – whose members include former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf – said the DNA database should be slimmed down and given a clearer legal framework. Those who volunteer their DNA to the police to help in an investigation should not have it added to the national database, they insisted. And suspects who are arrested but not convicted of a crime should not face having their genetic profile stored indefinitely. The Home Office is already under pressure to alter the rules following a high-profile defeat in European Court of Human Rights last year. Peers also call for a new Parliamentary watchdog to stand up for the rights and privacy of citizens and a panel to supervise database and surveillance issues. The committee’s chairman Lord Goodlad, a former Tory minister and high commissioner to Australia, said: ‘There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep toward every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state. ‘If the public are to trust that information about them is not being improperly used there should be much more openness about what data is collected, by whom and how it is used.’ Dominic Grieve, Tory justice spokesman, said the report was ‘a damning indictment of the reckless approach of this government to personal privacy’. He added: ‘Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing either its effectiveness or taking adequate steps to protect the privacy of perfectly innocent people.’ Today’s report follows stark warnings from Information Commissioner Richard Thomas that Britain was ‘sleepwalking into a surveillance society’. Critics have seized on high-profile losses of personal files by the Government – including the entire child benefit database covering 25million people – as evidence that the state cannot be trusted to safeguard such material. A Home Office spokesman said the Government was clear that surveillance and data collection ‘should only be used where it is necessary and proportionate’. She added: ‘The Home Secretary has already set out new common sense standards for use of investigatory powers and retention of DNA profiles, and has announced a consultation to open a reasoned debate about all these issues. Are you interested in what’s really going on in the world, behind the facade? Then…www.checktheevidence… happened on 9/11?    

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