ICO calls for closer scrutiny of laws related to privacy

New laws that impact on privacy should undergo post-legislative scrutiny, says Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

New laws that impact on privacy should undergo post-legislative scrutiny, says Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

This will ensure they are being implemented and used as intended by Parliament, he said in an updated report to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

The Committee requested the report as one of the recommendations arising from its inquiry into the surveillance society.

The report also makes the case for the use of 'sunset clauses' where legislation poses a high privacy risk and makes a number of recommendations for the private sector, particularly that the privacy implications of new technologies are considered before they are launched rather than being an afterthought.

Other recommendations include the use of robust privacy safeguards as well as the more wide-spread adoption of privacy enhancing technologies.

The report includes research findings by the Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academic experts in this field. This gauges how far privacy safeguards have kept pace with developments in surveillance and concludes that more still needs to be done.

"Many of the new laws that come into force every year in the UK have implications for privacy at their heart," said Graham.

"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," he said.

Graham cited, as an example, the use of covert CCTV surveillance by local councils to monitor parents in school catchment area disputes under powers designed to assist in crime prevention and detection.

"The report I've presented to Parliament today clearly 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," said Graham.

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