The Times reports that Britain’s information watchdog gives warning today that the country risks “sleepwalking into a surveillance society” because of government plans for identity cards and a population register.
Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, says that there is a growing danger of East German Stasi-style snooping if the State gathers too much information about individual citizens.
He singles out three projects that he believes are of particular concern. They are David Blunkett’s identity card scheme; a separate population register planned by the Office for National Statistics; and proposals for a database of every child from birth to the age of 18:
My anxiety is that we don’t sleepwalk into a surveillance society where much more information is collected about people, accessible to far more people shared across many more boundaries than British society would feel comfortable with.
Downing Street responded to warnings issued by Richard Thomas,
saying there would be a watchdog to prevent situations in which personal information gathered by one Whitehall department was made indiscriminately available to other civil servants without the individual’s knowledge.
We have made it clear that there are going to be guarantees about function creep. That is not what is going to happen. There is going to be proper oversight.
Oversight. Hm, so anyone trying to access the national database will be carefully monitored by CCTV and any other available surveillance technology. Phew, that really puts my mind to rest.
Also on BBC:
Watchdog’s Big Brother UK warning