The Liberal Democrats will make the issue of privacy central to their campaign at the next general election, according to a speech by party leader Nick Clegg yesterday.
Under Labour, the number of government databases and CCTV cameras has grown significantly, he said, adding that the election is an opportunity for people “to vote to take their privacy back”.
Clegg made his remarks in a speech to Privacy International to mark the organisation's 20th anniversary.
“Labour has spent 13 years trampling over people’s privacy. From allowing children’s fingerprints to be taken at school without their parents’ consent; to making us a world leader in CCTV; to wasting vast sums of taxpayers’ money on giant databases that hoard our personal details. And now we hear that ministers want pensioners to swap their bus passes for ID cards,” he said.
“The government’s staggering record on losing private data – leaving it in pub car parks and on commuter trains – just makes matters worse.”
The sheer number of government databases was highlighted in March last year by the Database State (PDF) report from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. The report rated just six of the 46 central government databases as safe.
Public anxiety over increased government surveillance was clearly expressed at last year's Convention of Modern Liberty. More than 1,500 people, including politicians and human rights activists, attended the public meeting to discuss how increasing UK government surveillance is eroding individuals' freedom and privacy.
The convention debated issues such as the high volume of consumer data that online businesses have access to, the dangers of unifying electronic records from different state departments, and DNA collection
In his speech, Clegg argued that a Conservative government would not improve matters.
“The Conservatives talk a good game on privacy, but scratch beneath the surface and it’s clear they can’t be trusted to roll back Labour’s surveillance state. Just look at their plans to make it even easier for the police to watch and record people getting on with their daily lives, all in the name of cutting red tape,” said Clegg.
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