January 20
Is privacy a luxury or a necessity? The speakers were Helen Bayliss, the head of service quality at Surrey Police, and Griff Ferris, researcher for Big Brother Watch. Helen, who is responsible for the collection and use of information by the police, opened proceedings. The audience learnt she had asked her staff to consider the question and read out two of the responses. She explained the limitations the force works under and how useful the information gathered can be. Griff acknowledged that information needed to be gathered and its use in stopping terrorism and serious crime. He said policing was already in operation by Kent Police. The police force was very stretched and this helped them to use their numbers in the best way but there was a danger in recycling old information and it is easy for biases and gremlins to get into the program and difficult to remove them. A programme used in the US, Compass, has apparently been proved to have significant racial disparities. In Britain, there have apparently been cases of people reluctant to seek medical help because of sharing of information between the Home Office and the Health Service. A new law recently passed in Parliament will give more protection but the difficulty will be enforcing it. Both speakers ended up agreeing on the need to use privacy settings on phones and computers and to be aware of our digital rights.