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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Watchdog bites

Lord Carlile of Berriew is much maligned by some Liberal Democrats for his role as the independent reviewer of anti-terrorist laws, however this article in the Independent demonstrates that he remains a liberal to the core.

Alex Carlile has condemned government plans to create a giant "Big Brother" database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK. He said the "raw idea" of the database was "awful" and called for controls to stop government agencies using it to conduct fishing expeditions into the private lives of the public.

He is not alone in his concern as the article makes clear:

Under the proposal, internet service providers and telecoms companies would hand over millions of phone and internet records to the Home Office, which would store them for at least 12 months so that the police and security services could access them. It is understood that more than £1bn has been earmarked for the database.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, has described the plans as "a step too far for the British way of life". Yesterday his office added: "It is clear that more needs to be done to protect people's personal information, but creating big databases... means you can never eliminate the risk that the data will fall into the wrong hands."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "This is another example of the Government's obsession with gathering as much information on each of us as possible in case it might prove useful in the future. Like the discredited ID card scheme this will have a massive impact on our privacy but will do nothing to make us safer."

Lord Carlile acknowledged the value of using phone and internet intelligence in fighting crime, but he said it would be wrong to go as far as the US Patriot Acts. "[They] go much further so that they [US data searches] include everyone who has made contact with a terror suspect... There must be codes of practice... In counter-terrorism collation is everything but raw data only has a limited use."

Dominic Grieve, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: "The Government must justify the case for any such massive increase in state acquisition, sharing and retention of data, spell out the safeguards to prevent abuse and – given its appalling record – explain how it will protect the integrity of any database holding sensitive personal data."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "Ministers simply can't be trusted with confidential data of this sort, as it has shown again and again."

Surely the government cannot believe that they will get this latest awful idea through both Houses of Parliament.


I've been in Labour for 44 years, but now I cannot wait for an election to get rid of this pathetic bunch called new Labour
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