The Tory MP for Harlow, Rob Halfon, has secured an historic backbench business debate
tomorrow on privacy and the internet. In my opinion, this subject is of vital importance to our public life. I attended the Backbench Business Committee with Rob as a witness to secure the debate,
and invasions of privacy online are of growing concern to many of us. One centrally important aspect of this discussion (but not by any means the only issue) is the behaviour of Google with their
Street View programme
: as the infamous cars trundled down the highways and
byways of Britain taking pictures of all and sundry, they had Wi-Fi receptors on board which captured the
of people who happened to be using the internet in the vicinity at the time – not by the dozen, but by the hundreds of thousands.
The relevant watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, issued a press release effectively clearing the company – in the middle of a Metropolitan Police investigation into the
criminality of what was done, and despite the investigation of the company by many other countries. It is this lack of action by those who are supposed to protect us which means the issue requires
Parliamentary oversight so much. Indeed, not even the confirmation
Google has definitely retained private e-mail addresses has shaken the Commissioner from his complacency.
Whilst Google is hardly the only offender, of all the organisations working online only Google has roamed the streets snatching people’s data from the airwaves. That puts Google in a
lamentable category of one. I’m sure that they will come in for criticism in tomorrow’s debate – and rightly so. At present, nobody knows if their online data was secretly taken
by Google’s Street View cars, but it will have affected people in every constituency in the country.
The debate is open to the public. It begins at 2.30pm in Westminster Hall and the debate has been allotted 3 hours. (It is a House of Commons Debate in Westminster Hall, not a traditional
“Westminster Hall” debate.) I am available at Big Brother Watch if you would like to speak about any aspect of this.
Alex Deane is the Director of Big Brother Watch