He posed the question of how the right to privacy from intrusion by our neighbours and the media is to be reconciled with the right to privacy from state surveillance. “A quarter of a century after 1984, the common law principles which govern protection of our privacy from intrusion by the media are just as relevant, indeed almost certainly more so, in relation to surveillance by the state,” he said.
“Here Parliament has intervened with legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, but there is much in the view that such legislation has proved ineffective, and occasionally counter-productive, in the halt of Big Brother’s march. No wonder that back in 2004 the then Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, warned against our sleep-walking into ‘a surveillance society’.”

Desmond Browne was speaking at a fringe panel session, entitled “The Database State: Privacy under Threat?”