Monday, June 9, 2008

UK: Identity Cards 'could be used to Spy on People'

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor

Britain is in danger of becoming a “surveillance society” and new safeguards are needed to protect people's privacy, an influential committee of MPs has warned. Fears are growing that the compulsory ID card scheme may be used to carry out surveillance on people and that a new children's database may be used to identify likely future criminals. The Home Affairs Select Committee is calling on ministers to introduce new safeguards to minimise the amount of information collected and stored on Britain's citizens following a series of data scandals.

Last week it emerged that councils are now using covert surveillance hundreds of times every month to investigate petty offences - such as putting out domestic waste incorrectly and dog fouling - and to check applications for popular schools. ...

The loss of discs containing the details of 25 million child benefit recipients last year has also heightened concerns.

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Committee, said: “The key issue is trust - the public don't have much choice over the data held on them by public bodies, so they must be confident about how it is being collected, stored and used - otherwise we are in danger of becoming a 'surveillance society'.

“What we are calling for is an overall principle of 'least data, for least time'. We have all seen over the past year extraordinary examples of how badly things can go wrong when data is mis-handled, with potentially disastrous consequences. ...

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