Shami Chakrabarti: Yet another step along a dangerous road

Share

Once upon a time, I thought that this Government was complacent about our personal privacy. Then I thought they were careless with it. Now, from those in power, I see nothing but contempt for that little bit of personal space and security that is so essential to our dignity, that makes us all human.

When the private and family matters of Cabinet ministers are up for grabs, particularly by the grabbing hand of the tabloid press, Government is quick and right to protest. However, the same rules don't seem to apply to the rest of us.

My problem as director of Liberty is that at the height of the so-called "war on terror", when absolute rules like the prohibition on torture are compromised by our political rulers, how much harder to defend more subtle and qualified rights like the presumption of privacy from the chilling slogan politics of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear".

Those who speak up for personal privacy are routinely painted as paranoid cranks and, sure enough, some of them don't do the cause any favours. In reality, most sensible people know that privacy cannot be absolute and support necessary and proportionate intrusions for tightly defined purposes and under protection of law. However, a society that doesn't value and protect the privacy of the individual is one without intimacy, honesty or trust. Government has taken us too far down that dangerous road.

CCTV can be a useful tool when used in a targeted and proportionate manner to deter crime. But why should Britain be the CCTV capital of the world?

Then, there is the new political Viagra of the massive database, which joins the overbroad criminal offence and the unfair trial as the latest answer to society's ills.

Children are abused, neglected and under-protected, so the answer is a mammoth database containing intimate information on every single child in the country. DNA technology can be a vital tool in linking serious criminals to the scenes of their crimes so instead of a safe, secure and well-maintained database of those convicted of serious sexual and violent crimes, we have a growing and racially-biased database of people who have been unfortunate to come into contact with the police, including those never charged or even cautioned with a crime.

Perhaps when policy is built upon opinion-polling rather than principle, these are the inevitable authoritarian results? But I wonder. Support for the intrusive, discriminatory and expensive folly of identity cards is in steady decline.

The latest bright idea of an information free-for-all within Government with the massive corresponding risks of error and fraud will only exacerbate widening popular concerns as to the competence of public administration and who really serves whom. Any new Prime Minister seeking to put some principle, prudence and trust back into politics might be tempted to think again.

The writer is Director of Liberty

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Officer (HMP Brixton Mentoring Project)

£24,000 per annum pro rata (21 hours per week): Belong: Work as part of a cutt...

Open Day for work in Education

£83 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Are you looking for work in Ed...

History Teacher

£110 - £160 per day + Mileage & Expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: Required i...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Nursery Nurse jobs in South Glouc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The colours of autumn leaves are among the many pleasures of the coming season  

In Sickness and in Health: As autumn arrives, more of us should wear high-vis clothes

Rebecca Armstrong
 

Daily catch-up: Scottish polls, canvass returns and arguments. And Top 10 Tweets

John Rentoul
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week