Posted By: Will Rhodes
I was surprised by these numbers:
The UK’s DNA database is the “largest in the world”, the report concluded, with more than 7% of the population having their samples stored, compared with 0.5% in the US.
I knew the numbers were large for the UK – if you have ever been there you can see CCTV just about everywhere – but having so much DNA on file – and for no real reason, well that is just shocking.
The Lord’s Constitution Committee says:
The proliferation of CCTV cameras and the growth of the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, the Lords constitution committee said.
Those subject to unlawful surveillance should be compensated while the policy of DNA retention should be rethought.
The Labour government says, as always, that keeping this information is essential to fighting crime. As far as I know, and do take into account that I am no expert and I don’t believe programs like CSI – DNA is very fragile – especially if not collected correctly, and that cannot be guaranteed. So there could be a hiccup there – but as with anything not thought through – much like the 3000 criminal laws the Labour government have brought forward, they are up for abuse.
Among areas of most concern were the growth of CCTV cameras, of which there are now an estimated four million in the UK.
The use of cameras should be regulated on a statutory basis with a legally binding code of practice governing their use, the committee said.
There was evidence of abuse of surveillance powers by some councils, with cameras wrongly being “used to spy on the public over issues such as littering”.
Don’t get me wrong – I detest litterers, put it in your pocket and take it home. But to spy on people using anti-terrorist laws!? That is madness personified.
Other recommendations include a requirement for any new data scheme to be preceded by a public assessment of its impact on privacy and for the Information Commissioner to be given powers to carry out inspections on private companies.
“The huge rise in surveillance and data collection by the state and other organisations risks undermining the long-standing tradition of privacy and individual freedom which are vital for democracy,” Lord Goodlad added.
“If the public are to trust that information about them is not being improperly used, there should be much more openness about what data is collected, by whom and how it is used.”
Agreed – but the Home Secretary doesn’t – and she spouts:
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has rejected claims of a surveillance society as “not for one moment” true and called for “common sense” guidelines on CCTV and DNA.
She recently announced a consultation on possible changes to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, under which public bodies can conduct covert surveillance and access data, to clarify who can use such powers and prevent “frivolous” investigations.
Consultation on possible changes? A talking-shop about how to spin it better to the public – yep, that’s about right for our Jacqui.