UK Surveillance World Leader

The 2007 International Privacy Ranking shows the UK to be of the world leaders in the surveillance society – a real eye opener.

From the report:

  • World leading surveillance schemes
  • Lack of accountability and data breach disclosure law
  • Commissioner has few powers
  • Interception of communications is authorised by politician, evidence not used in court, and oversight is by commissioner who reports only once a year upon reviewing a subset of applications
  • Hundreds of thousands of requests from government agencies to telecommunications providers for traffic data
  • Data retention scheme took a significant step forward with the quiet changes based on EU law
  • Plans are emerging regarding surveillance of communications networks for the protection of copyrighted content
  • Despite data breaches, ‘joined-up government’ initiatives continue
  • Identity scheme still planned to be the most invasive in the world, highly centralised and biometrics-driven; plan to issue all foreigners with cards in 2008 are continuing
  • E-borders plans include increased data collection on travellers

The one saving grace is that Scotland fairs much better in the analysis than our counterparts in England and Wales:

England & Wales
  • Inherited constitutional and statutory protections from UK Government and many of the policies
  • National policies are not judged, e.g. Communications surveillance, border and trans-border issues
  • Councils continue to spread surveillance policies, including RFID, CCTV, ID and data sharing, road user tracking
  • Few democratic safeguards at local government level, even though local government may be more accountable to electorate because of smaller numbers, decisions do not appear to be informed by research, prototyping
Scotland
  • Inherited constitutional and statutory protections from UK Government and only some of the policies
  • National policies are not judged, e.g. Communications surveillance, border and trans-border issues
  • Stronger protections on civil liberties
  • DNA database is not as open to abuse as policy in England and Wales
  • Identity policy is showing possibility of avoiding mistakes of UK Government
  • Scottish government appears more responsive and open to informed debate than local governments in England

Today has also seen Elish Angiolini, the Lord Advocate, voicing her opposition against the need for the proposed forty two day detention without charge limit, which  will be voted upon on Wednesday at Westminster. The BBC has an interesting news report around this issue.

Generally, it would appear the Scottish Government and the Scots Law establishment are far better at balancing the need for surveillance against the rights of individual privacy and human rights in respect of the true threat. Seems like another reasons in the tick box for Scotland to be independent and bring even more common sense to the issue without interference from London!

Does anyone still believe we live in a free country?

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