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ICO in privacy warning over new technology

New technologies bring privacy implications

The Information Commissioner has said the privacy implications of new technologies should first be considered before they are launched.

In a report to parliament, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham also said new laws that impact on privacy should undergo post-legislative scrutiny, to make sure they were being used as intended.

He cited the use of surveillance laws brought in to help investigate crime, with some councils, with the help of CCTV networks, now using the laws to spy on parents believed to have registered for school places not in their catchment area.

The Information Commissioner also says the private sector should make sure the privacy implications of new technologies are considered before they are launched, "rather than being an afterthought".

The Commissioner also wants more wide-spread adoption of privacy enhancing technologies. The report was requested by the parliamentary home affairs committee, as one of its recommendations arising from its inquiry into the surveillance society.

The Information Commissioner's report includes research findings by the Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academic experts in the field. The network gauges how far privacy safeguards have kept pace with developments in surveillance.

Graham said: “Many of the new laws that come into force every year in the UK have implications for privacy at their heart. My concern is that after they are enacted there is no one looking back to see whether they are being used as intended, or whether the new powers were indeed justified in practice."

Graham added, “The report makes the case for government departments to build post-legislative scrutiny into their work as a key way of ensuring the successful delivery of the new transparency and privacy agenda.”

Last year, a House of Lords committee report lambasted the government for its “ever-increasing” data collection.

The continued construction of databases of citizen information “risks undermining the fundamental relationship between the state and its citizens, which is the cornerstone of democracy”, the committee said.

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