ICO calls for post-legislative scrutiny of laws affecting privacy

The UK Information Commissioner has called for any new laws that impact on privacy to be subjected to post-legislative scrutiny, citing local authorities’ use of covert surveillance in school catchment area disputes as justification for the move.

In a report to Parliament, Christopher Graham said there should be a legal requirement for such scrutiny to ensure laws are being implemented and used as intended by Parliament.

The watchdog argued in the report in favour of the use of ‘sunset’ clauses where the laws pose a high privacy risk. He also called on the private sector to examine the privacy implications of new technologies before they launch them, and urged the widespread adoption of privacy enhancing technologies.

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

“One example of this is 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 was submitted to the home affairs select committee, which is conducted an inquiry into the surveillance society.

Research findings in the report put forward by the Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academic experts, suggested that more needed to be done to ensure privacy safeguards keep pace with developments in surveillance.

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