Info chief in renewed surveillance warning

Britain's 'privacy tsar' has reiterated the dangers that the growth in personal information collection could bring to UK residents.

Information commissioner Richard Thomas today called for a renewed debate "on where to draw the line", three years after coining the phrase "are we sleepwalking into a surveillance society".

He says that individuals face risks of poor data quality, mistaken identity, inaccurate facts or inferences and security breaches.

"There is so much personal information about us now that is collected, held on computers, can be used in so many different sorts of ways, many beneficial ways in terms of state security, in terms of improving public services," Mr Thomas told the Today programme.

"But there needs to be more focus on some of the risks: the risks when things go wrong for individuals, and perhaps some of the risks to the fabric of society."

The information commissioner today revealed proposals to the home affairs select committee calling for more powers to inspect and audit organisations without their approval.

"We believe, like any other regulatory body, we should not have to go on our bended knees and ask their consent," he explained.

"We should be there on behalf of the public to find out what is happening in practice."

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