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British lawmakers call for limits on government's use of security cameras, surveillance

British lawmakers call for limits on government's use of security cameras, surveillance

British lawmakers called Sunday for new limits on the amount of data stored on the country's citizens, saying the United Kingdom is in danger of becoming a surveillance society.
The Home Affairs select committee said in a report that less data should be held for shorter periods, including security camera videos, DNA samples and personal information such as banking details.
Committee members warned that Britain's plans to introduce national identity cards later this year will likely create a single national database, storing a myriad of information on every person in Britain aged over 16.
"What we are calling for is an overall principle of least data, for least time," said committee chairman Keith Vaz, a lawmaker with Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party.
The committee said that while the government is seeking to store more data on individuals, it has failed to prove it can safely store personal information.
Last year, tax officials lost computer disks containing information _ including banking records _ on nearly half the population of the country. It then acknowledged that a disk drive containing personal information on 3 million British driving test candidates had been lost on route to a processing center in the U.S.
"We have all seen over the past year extraordinary examples of how badly things can go wrong when data is mishandled, with potentially disastrous consequences," Vaz said.
New identity cards will hold biographical, biometric data and details of medical and benefits records. They will be Britain's first ID cards since the end of World War II.
"We are concerned ... about the potential for function creep in terms of the surveillance potential of the National Identity Scheme," the report said. "Any ambiguity about the objectives of the scheme puts in jeopardy the public's trust in the scheme itself and in the government's ability to run it."
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said he backed the committee's call for the government to hold less personal data. "The more personal details that are collected, the greater the risk that mistakes will occur," he said.
Vaz said Britain was probably at the limits of an acceptable amount of surveillance, saying Britain has around one security camera for every 14 people.
The committee said lawmakers should block any attempts to add audio surveillance to security cameras, saying that it would constitute too much intrusion into public life.
Vaz said there was a "tendency to collect more and more data just because the technology allows it and for data to be used beyond the purposes it was initially collected for."
He said the committee would also oppose any future attempts to use personal data collected on young people to carry out predictive criminal profiling.
"Ministers must end their unhealthy obsession with monitoring the lives of ordinary people," said opposition Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne, who is not a member of the committee.
Opposition Conservative lawmaker David Davis, who is also not a committee member, said Britain must reduce its database of DNA samples.
"We have got the biggest DNA database, not just in the free world, but in the world, with over a million innocent people on it," Davis said.


Updated : 2021-03-07 20:39 GMT+08:00