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Legal opinion on proposed financial surveillance powers in Data Protection and Digital Information Bill

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Dan Squires KC and Aidan Wills have produced a legal opinion on proposed powers in the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill to compel financial institutions to undertake large-scale monitoring of accounts to detect possible fraud and mistakes in the payment of benefits. This surveillance would be ordered by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), and there would be no requirement for any suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of account holders.

The opinion, commissioned by Big Brother Watch, concludes that surveillance pursuant to these powers is likely to breach the right to privacy because it is not accompanied by sufficient safeguards, and if the surveillance were ordered for the purposes of identifying the DWP’s own mistakes that is unlikely to be proportionate. The powers would, the opinion explains, have a disproportionate impact on some groups (including disabled people), which may amount to discrimination. The Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords.

The Big Brother Watch has published the opinion, and its press release is available here.