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Inquiry into UK gov't surveillance

House of Lords investigates privacy threat

The House of Lords constitution committee has launched an inquiry into the impact that UK government surveillance and data collection on privacy and the relations between citizens and the state.

The inquiry comes with the government pushing for increased data sharing between public sector agencies and controversy over schemes such as the ID card programme and the uploading of patient data onto the NHS ‘spine’, part of the £12.4 billion National Programme for IT.

The committee will consider which forms of surveillance or data collection might be considered constitutionally proper or improper and whether the 1998 Data Protection Act offers sufficient protection for members of the public.

Committee chair Lord Holme of Cheltenham said: "The nature and extent of surveillance and data collection have changed dramatically in recent years. We now have close to 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the UK and with the introduction of the NHS Spine and the ID card database the government will hold more information about us than ever before.

"The broad constitutional implications of these changes have not thus far been sufficiently closely scrutinised. As a committee we hope to get to the bottom of how these changes are altering the relationship between individuals and the State, and to ascertain whether necessary protection is in place."

The committee has appointed Charles Raab, professor of politics at Edinburgh University, as specialist adviser to the inquiry.

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