Tuesday, 15 July 2008

'Big Brother' warning over Government database that records EVERY phone call and e-mail in Britain

15th July 2008

Cautious: Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warns a 'Big Brother' database would threaten the British way of life

Cautious: Information Commissioner Richard Thomas warns a 'Big Brother' database would threaten the British way of life

A 'Big Brother' database recording every single phone call and e-mail made in Britain would threaten the British way of life, the information watchdog has warned.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said such a Government-run database would have serious data protection implications.

Amid speculation a massive database is already being planned, he declared it would be a 'step too far'.

May's draft legislative programme included provision for a Bill 'to modify the procedures for acquiring communications data and allow this data to be retained'.

However, Mr Thomas declared as he launched his annual report today that any such database would have serious ramifications.

He said: 'I am absolutely clear that the targeted, and duly authorised, interception of the communications of suspects can be invaluable in the fight against terrorism and other serious crime.

'But there needs to be the fullest public debate about the justification for, and implications of, a specially created database - potentially accessible to a wide range of law enforcement authorities - holding details of everyone's telephone and internet communications.

'Do we really want the police, security services and other organs of the state to have access to more and more aspects of our private lives?'

Speculation the Home Office was considering collection the information from phone companies and internet service providers had been fuelled by the draft legislative programme, Mr Thomas continued.

But he insisted there had not been sufficient parliamentary or public debate on proposals to collect more and more personal information on databases for DNA samples and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras.

He added: 'We welcomed last month's report from the all-party Home Affairs Committee warning of the dangers of excessive surveillance.

'I entirely agree that before major new databases are launched careful consideration must be given to the impact on individuals' liberties and on society as a whole.

'Sadly, there have been too many developments where there has not been sufficient openness, transparency or public debate.'

The past few months have seen several high-profile data loss scandals, much to the Government's embarrassment.

The Information Commissioner's Office was today serving enforcement notices against HMRC and the Ministry of Defence following the recent high-profile data protection breaches involving the loss of computer discs and laptops containing personal details.

The notices require both departments to comply with recommendations from recent reports into the incidents and to provide progress reports on what has been done.

Failure to comply with the notices is a criminal offence.

No comments: