(Question 2 paragraph 6 from Surveillance: Citizens and the State Volume 1: Report House of Lords select committee on the Constitution 2nd report of Session 2008-09).
The UK is increasingly sleep walking into a surveillance society to the extent that it has become an inescapable part of life. Every time we make a telephone call, send an email, browse the internet, or even walk down our local high street, our actions may be monitored and recorded. The increasing prevalence of surveillance has perhaps led to the state being viewed by its citizens as the Big Brother of Orwellian fame. This essay intends to focus on the impact of government surveillance and data collection has upon the privacy of citizens and, as a consequence, their relationship with the state. To effectively answer this question there needs to be an examination of the various forms of surveillance and data collection and whether they are constitutionally proper or improper, intrusive or legal, and whether there should be limitations to the quantity of information collated. The advancement of technology in the 21st century has enhanced the quantity and integrity of surveillance information which begs the question are we as a nation ‘too stupid’ to realise how intrusive the UK’s surveillance regime is? Is a citizen’s liberty and privacy at stake with the effects of surveillance from both public and private sector? Furthermore is the legislation governing this issue sufficient in its application? All these matters will be addressed. However, as there are so many forms of surveillance, there will be a particular emphasis on mass surveillance and the use of CCTV and databases. The need for a widespread belief in the importance of individual freedom and executive accountability is undoubtedly a prerequisite to the success of a constitutional democracy.
Understanding Surveillance and its Components.
The term ‘surveillance’ can be briefly defined as ‘watching over’ which indicates monitoring the behaviour of persons, objects, or systems. There are two broad types of surveillance, mass surveillance and targeted surveillance. Mass Surveillance is not targeted on any particular individual and gathers information for future use, further, it has the potential to erode privacy. Whereas targeted is directed at particular individuals. It can be carried out under a covert or overt means If it is carried out under a covert operation, it is important to note, that the citizen is unaware of the use of targeted surveillance, so therefore the relationship with the state is unaffected by the use of this type. However if in the event where there was unlawful targeted surveillance and the individual was to become aware, the consequences can be detrimental to the relationship between the citizen and the state. It is important to note that alongside the state there are non state agencies and organizations which also occupy an increasingly significant component of surveillance systems today. The case of Patton v Poole Borough council where, only after the surveillance had been completed by the council on a family, were they made aware of this. The council believed they were acting in accordance with RIPA, and that ‘it was necessary for the prevention and detection of crime and it was proportionate for determining the genuineness of information supplied by Ms Patton.’ The tribunal in this instance found the council was in breach of RIPA and did not act in accordance with Article 8. In coming to this conclusion the court had to determine the issue of whether the actions carried out by the council was necessary for the prevention or detection of crime and was it proportionate to what sought to be achieved. The legislation governing Surveillance and the protection of citizens is outlined in the Data Protection Act 1998, Regulation...