Privacy Threats: Which is the greatest threat to Privacy – Government, Facebook or the General Public? (11 March 2009)

Whether due to CCTV, ID cards, retaining DNA of innocent people, the UK Government has come under determined attack again and again for encroaching on the privacy rights of its citizens. But are there bigger threats that privacy campaigners are missing?

This debate is made particularly topical. Computer Weekly wrote:”On 4 February, [Facebook] published changes to its Terms of Service that would allow it to use any information published on the site as it wishes, and restrict user rights to delete data. This caused great concern for many users. There is a moral to this story: when databases are retasked to different purposes, or suffer significant function creep, things start to go wrong. Unfortunately, such an approach seems to be standard in so many different public-sector programmes. Those responsible for HM Government IT policy should take heed.” Facebook has subsequently reverted to its old terms following the outcry.

Or does the treatment of data by the big boys pale in comparison with the promiscuity of the public in handing out credit card details all over the web, while posting photos and personal information on their publicly accessible social networking profile?

Adrian Blair

Adrian, Research Secretary for the Bow Group, has spent the last 10 years working for and advising internet companies, including Ask.com and Google, and teaching undergraduate economics at Harvard university.

Professor Richard Walton C.B.

Retired from the civil service in 2003. He continues to undertake consultancy in Information Assurance and is a visiting Professor in the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway, University of London. Over a 30 year career in GCHQ, he served in a variety of technical and management posts culminating as a board member and Director of CESG. He has degrees in Mathematics and Electronics. He is a member of the IT sector panel for the Institute of Engineering and Technology and of the Defence Scientific Advisory Council.

Tom Flynn

Tom is the Young Fabians’ Policy and Publications Officer. Having completed a Degree in Economics and an MA in Interactive Production, he now works for a public sector trade union. Tom is an active member of the Labour Party and is the candidate for Southend West.