Lib Dems ‘will protect your digital rights’

Nick Clegg lends a hand on a visit to a nursery in Sheffield yesterday. Picure: PA
Nick Clegg lends a hand on a visit to a nursery in Sheffield yesterday. Picure: PA
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THE Liberal Democrats have unveiled radical plans for digital rights safeguards that would block controversial Scottish Government plans for a super ID database.

A new UK-wide Digital Rights Bill would be introduced within the first six months of forming any new coalition government, party leader Nick Clegg said yesterday.

It would be the first time that people’s “fundamental rights” in the digital space – including social media, smartphone apps, and government websites – have been mapped out.

It comes as proposals to roll out the NHS central database across public bodies in Scotland, with access secured through a citizen’s reference number, have prompted widespread opposition from civil right groups and opposition parties.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said the new bill would mean no public body could collect, store or process an individual’s personal data without their explicit consent, or without the legal authority to do so.

Mr Rennie said: “These proposals would protect our civil liberties. They could blockade the SNP’s plans to create a super ID database.

“They plan to build a super ID database covering large sections of the public sector and every citizen without their full consent. They have been warned by experts, campaigners and every party, except the SNP, in parliament. It is now time to protect our digital rights in law.

“We defeated Labour’s plans for ID cards. This new digital rights bill would stop the SNP bringing in ID cards by the back door. It shows why you need Scottish Liberal Democrats if you want a fairer society.”

The Scottish Government has rejected claims that its plans would mean the introduction of a new national database.

A spokesman for Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “Willie Rennie’s threat to ‘blockade’ Scottish Government policy is a bid for a Westminster power grab over Holyrood – a deeply unpopular move which helps explain why the Lib Dems are sinking like a stone in the polls.

“The SNP government is firmly opposed to ID cards, and we are firmly committed to protecting people’s privacy.”

The Lib Dems’ proposed bill would also result in jail sentences for the large-scale theft of personal data, which successive Labour and Conservative governments have blocked.

It comes after a series of recent reports revealed that private companies have been selling the details of people’s pension pots, in breach of data protection law.

As more people conduct everyday business online, the Lib Dems fear this leaves them open to “exploitation and misuse of their personal information” by criminals, commercial interests, and public authorities.

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The Liberal Democrats are right to highlight the need to protect people’s privacy and to reject the creation of centralising databases that can be used by future governments whose wishes and intentions we know nothing about.”

Mr Clegg said: “The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed at lightning speed since the digital revolution.

“However, government and politicians have responded at snail’s pace, with a poor understanding of new technology and the impact it is having on our lives.

“We need to ensure that consumers, businesses, journalists and our children are protected in the online world.

“Our Digital Bill of Rights will finally enshrine into law our rights as citizens of this country to privacy, to stop information about our lives being misused, and to protect our right to freedom of speech.”

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