Lords voice privacy concerns

Report critical of 'surveillance society'; recommends compensation for victims

The House of Lords has today published a report critical of the expansion of ‘surveillance society’ and warning that the right to privacy is being undermined by pervasive and routine electronic surveillance and collection of personal data.

The report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee, entitled ‘Surveillance: Citizens and the State’, notes that the UK has become a world leader in its use of surveillance, particularly CCTV cameras and the retention of DNA, but expresses concern that current regulation and control in this field is inadequate.

The report makes over forty recommendations, including statutory regulation of the use of CCTV cameras, a clear legislative framework for the DNA database, a review of the provisions of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and amendments to the Data Protection Act to provide for ‘privacy impact assessments’ before any new surveillance regime is introduced. A complaints procedure for breaches of Article 8 should be established, and "where appropriate", legal aid should be made available for Article 8 claims. Compensation should be paid to the victims of "unlawful surveillance" by public authorities. The report also endorses tighter controls within government and a new joint parliamentary committee on surveillance and data powers, to which the Information Commission, whose powers should be strengthened, could report.