22 February 2011

One in the plus column for the EC

The Reg has a fascinating commentary on a recently published European Commission response (pdf) to a four-year-old freedom of information (FOI) request by privacy and data protection campaigner Chris Pounder (Hawktalk), who was only sent the FOI material after the European Ombudsman intervened.

It seems the EC has expressed strong criticism not only of Britain's Data Protection Act (DPA) but also of how the British courts have interpreted it, as falling far short of ensuring the citizens' rights against the state as enumerated in the EU's Data Protection Directive of 1995, which was supposed to have been enacted by 1998.

Among the items in the Directive that the British state has found it inconvenient to enact (unlike EU directives increasing the power of the state, which are always gold-plated by British officials) is the right of citizens to check the accuracy of data held by anyone, ensure it is being kept up-to-date, and to rectify, erase or block it if necessary. The DPA grants the courts discretion to grant or refuse any such applications; and refuse them they do.

I'm beginning to nurture the subversive thought that as far as civil liberties are concerned, it may only have been membership of the EU that deterred the totalitarian ambitions of the Blair/Brown regime.

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