So the Anderson report is out and the Home secretary has said that a new surveillance bill will be introduced later this year. Now privacy professionals will need to get involved, but to what end? To ensure privacy is protected? I can guarantee that it won’t be, at least not to the satisfaction of some in the industry. It is clear that any bill that allows the state to intercept and look at personal data invades privacy. The only question will be by how much and with what controls in place.
That balance, alongside many others, such as privacy vs commerce and privacy vs free speech, are part and parcel of defining the limits of data protection, as well of course, of the other rights and responsibilities being balanced. Personally I think Mr Andersons’s call for a fresh simplified Act is completely correct. When the RIPA and the various other pieces of legislation involved where enacted, the world was a far simpler place. The level of electronic communication was a fraction of that created now. We need to debate what the proper balance is between privacy and state intrusion. This will not be a simple balance as the threats to society, and all of us as individuals, have also changed and increased over the years. But for me this is the point, a debate will be had and society, at least as represented by the MPs and their advisors, will be forced to look at these difficult issues and come to a conclusion. All under the scrutiny of the press and public.
I just wish some of the other balances around privacy were going to receive the same level of public debate.