Friday, February 6, 2009

YOU KNOW IT'S BAD WHEN THE HOUSE OF LORDS IS MORE CONCERNED ABOUT FREEDOM THAN OBAMA OR THE DEMOCRATS

Guardian, UK - The steady expansion of the "surveillance society" risks undermining fundamental freedoms including the right to privacy, according to a House of Lords report. The peers say Britain has constructed one of the most extensive and technologically advanced surveillance systems in the world in the name of combating terrorism and crime and improving administrative efficiency. . .

Although many surveillance practices and data collection processes are unknown to most people, the expansion in their use represents "one of the most significant changes in the life of the nation since the end of the second world war", the report says. The committee warns that the national DNA database could be used for "malign purposes", challenges whether CCTV cuts crime and questions whether local authorities should be allowed to use surveillance powers at all.

The peers say privacy is an "essential prerequisite to the exercise of individual freedom" and the growing use of surveillance and data collection needs to be regulated by executive and legislative restraint at all times.

Lord Goodlad, the former Tory chief whip and committee chairman, said there could be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards every detail about an individual being recorded and pored over by the state.

"The huge rise in surveillance and data collection by the state and other organizations risks undermining the long-standing traditions of privacy and individual freedom which are vital for democracy," he said. "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."

The constitution committee makes more than 40 recommendations to protect individual privacy, including the deletion of all profiles from the national DNA database except for those of convicted criminals and a call for the mandatory encryption of personal data held by public and private organizations that are legally obliged to hold it.

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