ICO welcomes call to prevent 'surveillance society'

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has welcomed a Home Affairs Committee call to prevent the UK from turning into a 'surveillance society'.

Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, made a statement in reply to the parliamentary committee, which last Sunday called on the government to keep data on individuals only as long as was necessary.

Thomas said: "I welcome the Home Affairs Committee's call for the government to adopt the principle of data minimisation and curb unnecessary surveillance."

"It is essential that positive action is taken to ensure the potential risks of a surveillance society never manifest themselves in this country."

The Committee recognised the ICO call to raise awareness of the importance of data and also supported privacy impact assessments to analyse how data was being handled by organisations.

Thomas said that before there were developments taking place to increase levels of surveillance, full consideration needed to be given to the privacy of individuals, together with the right safeguards.

He said: "The more personal details that are collected, the greater the risks that mistakes will occur. Every possible step must be taken to ensure public trust in the way that personal information is collected and stored.

"More and more people now understand the importance of the data protection framework in making sure personal information is collected in ways which are necessary, justified and proportional."