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BCS and Law Society to help government avoid legal own-goals

Ian Grant

The British Computer Society and the Law Society are working on a process that will help stop the new government from passing acts that will result in "unintended consequences" in the implementation of the law.

The news emerged at a multilateral meeting on privacy and the rule of law hosted by the Law Society. The meeting was one of a series aimed at helping government introduce practical identity legislation in the wake of the decision to scrap identity cards.

Some observers hope that the government will test the process on the controversial Digital Economy Act. The act was passed in two hours at the end of the last parliament in April after more than 300 amendments in the Lords, and several very contentious clauses were dropped. Its passage was described at the time as "an abuse of the parliamentary system".

Last month the Law Society and lobby group Privacy International established a privacy rights centre.

Law Society president Robert Heslett the centre would co-ordinate pro bono privacy advice, advocacy and legal action to uphold the rule of law and the rights of the individual against injustices caused by the use of oppressive surveillance technologies in the UK and abroad.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which regulates data protection and privacy, warned in 2006 that the UK was "sleepwalking into a surveillance society".

It renewed its concern earlier last month when it announced that it had received more than 1,000 voluntary reports of data breaches.

The NHS was the most frequent offender, but the loss of two discs with the names and personal details of 25 million child benefit claimants was the worst single loss, the ICO said.


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