Privacy

Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

- Article 8 of the Human Rights Act

The right to privacy protects you against unnecessary and heavy-handed state surveillance and intrusion into your personal life.

The right to privacy can only be limited by law when it is necessary to do so in a democratic society for reasons such as national security, public safety, the prevention of crime or protection of the rights and freedoms of others. Any limitation on this right must be proportionate.

The importance of the right to personal privacy become self-evident in the immediate aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War. The right to a private life is based on principles of human dignity and is inherently linked to many other rights such as equal treatment and free expression. A society that does not pay proper regard to personal privacy is one where dignity, autonomy and trust are fatally undermined.

People in the UK today are becoming increasingly concerned about respect for their private life and private information:

  • In July 2009, a Liberty-YouGov poll found that 77 per cent of those questioned believed the UK has become a surveillance society. This is 20 per cent more than those questioned two years previously. Find out more
  • And 95 per cent of those questioned in a poll in December 2009 said they thought that the right to privacy was vital or important. Find out more

 

We campaign on the key issues relating to the right to privacy in the UK today including:

  • Databases – Millions of pieces of personal information are held on government databases, raising questions about data security, access and the legitimacy and rationale of each database;
  • State surveillance – Highly intrusive state-sanctioned surveillance powers currently do not require judicial authorisation and increasingly large numbers of bodies have access to surveillance powers, including all local authorities;
  • National DNA Database – Over 5 million people have their DNA stored, many of whom have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any offence. It is the largest per capita DNA database in the world;
  • CCTV and ANPR – There is very little regulation of visual surveillance, even though CCTV cameras Automatic Number Plate Recognition - technology which captures and store images - is commonplace;
  • Criminal Record Checks – Vast numbers of employers have direct access to individual criminal records, including unsubstantiated allegations;
  • ID Cards – The New Labour Government introduced a system of ID cards - linked to a ‘National Identity Register’ which could have held potentially unlimited amounts of information about every individual. The Coalition Government passed the Identity Documents Act, which repealed ID cards and the National Identity Register. ID cards which have already been issued have become defunct. Liberty was at the forefront of the campaign against ID cards.

 

In June 2013 the Snowden leaks revealed that GCHQ, the UK's eavesdropping agency, is intercepting and processing billions of communications every day and sharing the information with the US. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on social media sites and the history of an internet user's access to websites. All without public acknowledgement.

The project – Tempora – has been in existence since the beginning of 2012. The leaks also suggest that the US authorities have similarly breathtaking and direct access to global communications via the world’s biggest internet companies. This secretive programme is known as PRISM and reports suggest that the UK also accesses this data.

In May 2013 the Draft Communications Data Bill was notable by its absence from the Queen’s Speech. It would have required internet and phone companies to retain records of our calls, emails, texts and web visits. It now appears those who failed to make the case for the Draft Comms Bill already smuggled a more intrusive Snoopers’ Charter for blanket surveillance through the back door.

Liberty has filed a claim against the British security services for their role in PRISM and Tempora. We will be lobbying and campaigning for urgent amendment to the outdated laws governing surveillance and an end to blanket surveillance of the population.

 

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