UK must balance surveillance and data collection with privacy: Lords committee

UK must balance surveillance and data collection with privacy: Lords committee

[JURIST] Britain's House of Lords Constitution Committee [official website] released a report [text, PDF; evidence appendix, PDF] Friday saying that the country's use of widespread video surveillance and personal data collection pose a threat to citizens' privacy and freedom. The committee said that while such surveillance and data collection could serve legitimate law-enforcement purposes, those interests should be balanced against privacy concerns, including Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text]. The committee also issued specific recommendations that DNA data on individuals be consolidated to the National DNA Database [materials], and that closed-circuit television surveillance only be used under strict oversight and where it has been shown to be effective.

In February 2008, the UK Home Office [official website] said that the government has no plans [JURIST report] to create a compulsory DNA database for British citizens. Rights groups have criticized the National DNA Database for retaining information on criminal suspects after they are found innocent, and for displaying a racial bias [JURIST reports] against minorities. In September 2007, UK rights group Liberty [advocacy website] released a report [press release; JURIST report] arguing that the government was endangering the privacy of law-abiding Britons by increasingly using mass surveillance to profile people rather than targeting individual criminal suspects using intelligence-led policing.