A comment in the Guardian by Henry Porter decries preceived intrusions into the private lives of the British and suggests that Canada is a good model to follow. He agrees strongly with what Pierre Trudeau said, that the Government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.
Our sex lives are our own business Comment Guardian Unlimited Politics
... A few years ago, this sentence appeared at the beginning of a bill: 'Her Majesty by and with the advice of the House of Commons enacts as follows: rules to govern the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in a manner that recognises the right of privacy of individuals with respect to their personal information.'
The only words I have missed out are the 'senate' and 'of Canada'. Same queen, but different country and one which has placed the respect for privacy at the heart of its national life. It seems extraordinary that two countries which used to share so many political values have taken such different directions. There's a lot that Canada can teach the Mother of Parliaments, especially the opposition, which has lost the habit of thinking outside the terms that Labour has set for the national agenda.
There are two important acts which serve as good templates for the sorts of reforms Liberty calls for. The first is the Privacy Act which took effect in 1983 and which imposes obligations on some 150 government and federal departments and agencies to respect the privacy rights by limiting the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. It gives the individual a right to access and correction of personal information held by agencies. The second act is the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (Pipeda), a law which means a company like Tesco, which accumulates enormous amounts of personal data, must have consent from its customers. Underlying these is the Canadian charter of rights and freedoms which states: 'Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure', a guarantee which I would like to see in a British bill of rights.
It is argued that we have the Data Protection Act and the information commissioner, but despite the latter's agitation, nothing has stopped the 500,000 interceptions of private communication each year, the total surveillance of motorways, the building of the ID card data base, the creepy children's database and expansion of the police DNA database.
The Canadian system hasn't worked perfectly, especially since 9/11, but Canadians shudder at what is happening in the UK, at the abandon with which we allow government more and more control over our lives and our futures....