THE UK Home Secretary secretively signed a "special certificate" last year that gives foreign security agencies real-time access to traffic camera images and related data monitoring British motorists on highways throughout the UK.
Opposition politicians and civil liberties advocates yesterday accused Gordon Brown's government of attempting to hide from Parliament its covert plans to facilitate international surveillance of UK citizens in violation of privacy laws.
Under the authorisation signed last July 4 by Jacqui Smith, video feeds and still images captured from roadside TV cameras, along with personal data derived from them, can be transmitted out of the UK to countries such as the US, that are outside the European Economic Area.
Home Secretary Smith failed to mention the exception in a statement she made to Parliament less than two weeks later on July 17, 2007 outlining Metropolitan Police exemptions to the 1998 Data Protection Act.
The dispensation gives British police "anti-terrorism" officers the permission to transmit images and information overseas, based upon any representation that the materials are relevant to a "terrorism" threat either in the UK or elsewhere.
Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg said last night, "This confirms that this Government is happy to hand over potentially huge amounts of information on British citizens under the catch-all pretext of 'national security'."
UK civil liberties groups are appalled that the UK government is monitoring the daily movements of British citizens on a wholesale basis, even more so that it's willing to provide surveillance images and data to foreign intelligence agencies.
Opponents of what they view as a nascent surveillance state fear the imposition of a "data mining" programme to filter and correlate billions of pieces of data to profile individuals, activities and relationships in ways that might be abused, such as to target minorities and political groups and suppress peaceful dissent.
A Home Office spokesman defended powers granted by the "special certificate" on the grounds of "counter terrorism" and national security, as they always do, of course. Speaking anonymously, he said "We would like to reassure the public that robust controls have been put in place to control and safeguard access to, and use of, the information."
In other words, "Trust us." µ
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