In 2007 the House of Lords called for evidence, as part of their investigation into privacy entitled “The Impact of Surveillance and Data Collection upon the Privacy of Citizens and their Relationship with the State” several different bodies and individuals provided their expertise. One of these was the Royal Academy of Engineering.
The report made several statements that the balance of privacy and surveillance of the state is swinging in favor of the state. They found that the public cannot avoid CCTV, that “optional systems” like Oyster cards, which track peoples movements around London, were not optional, and that there was no clear line between beneficial surveillance and constitutionally improper surveillance.
Highlights from the report include:
- The rise of camera surveillance probably has the greatest impact as individuals in public spaces cannot refuse consent for the recording of their image…..The increase in such surveillance means that the ‘big brother’ State becomes more than just a cliché. Authorities are watching citizens for increasing proportions of their daily lives and citizens have no power to reject such surveillance.
- In the private sector, schemes like the Oyster travel card …..involve collection of data about individuals… people would miss out significantly on benefits and convenience if they refuse them or use them anonymously. These technologies …effectively collect data about peoples’ journeys …by stealth.
- The existence and use of the National DNA Databases (NDNAD) raises significant questions regarding the rights of those on it. DNA profiles can be used to identify family relationships or to predict susceptibility to disease. ..An individual should have the right to withhold their DNA if there is no specific need for it in the investigation/prevention of crime.
This report, like the others submitted to the House of Lords Select Committee, showed that UK government is on a direct path to have all the apparatus in place for a police state – even if that was not what they intend.