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CCTV Is Destroying Your Privacy - David Guyatt - 09-02-2009

9:45am UK, Friday February 06, 2009

The public's privacy is being undermined by the "incessant creep" of Government surveillance, according to a group of peers.

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The Lords are concerned about people's right to privacy

The House of Lords Constitution Committee says the UK has more CCTV cameras and a bigger DNA database per person than anywhere else in the world.

It wants ministers to exercise much greater restraint in authorising more surveillance and data collection.

Councils should be stopped from using powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and compensation paid to anyone who has been the subject of unlawful monitoring, they said.

The use of such powers - which were criticised when it was revealed they were used to monitor people putting out their bins and whether schoolchildren lived in the right catchment area - should also be monitored by judges, they added.

Ministers have also been urged to "act quickly" to comply with the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the DNA database.
Anyone who voluntarily gives their DNA to police during an investigation, but is not a suspect, should have it removed automatically, the report concluded.

There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state.
Lord Goodlad, Lord's Constitution Committee

The committee's chairman, Lord Goodlad, said: "The huge rise in surveillance and data collection by the state and other organisations risks undermining the long standing traditions of privacy and individual freedom which are vital for democracy.

"There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state."
Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve called the committee's remarks "a damning indictment of the reckless approach of this government to personal privacy".

But a spokesman for the Home Office and Ministry of Justice said: "CCTV and DNA are essential crime fighting tools and along with new technologies have revolutionised police investigations and helped to keep the public safe.
"The Government has been clear that where surveillance or data collection will impact on privacy they should only be used where it is necessary and proportionate."