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Why The UK Needs A PRA
The United Kingdom is planning to create a database containing "a record of every telephone call, email and website visit made in Britain." The proposed legislation "would force internet and telephone companies to keep full details of every movement made by customers...."

All governments need to maintain strict vigilance to guard against terrorism. The question facing the UK is whether the proposal goes too far in its recordkeeping and reporting requirements. The governmentís information watchdog, the Information Commissionerís Office, has stated that the governmentís plans "give us serious concerns and may well be a step too far. We are not aware of any justification for the state to hold every UK citizenís phone and internet records. We have real doubts that such a measure can be justified...."

The processes and public protections contained in the Paperwork Reduction Act, if implemented in the UK, could allay many of the concerns expressed by the ICO, an "independent public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information by promoting good practice...."

Under the PRA, the agency requiring private sector collection and reporting of data would need to engage in a series of safeguards including publicly explaining how the information in question would have practical utility and how the government would minimize the burden on collecting/reporting entities. Moreover, the collecting agency would solicit public comments on the proposed information collection and a senior agency official would be required to formally certify compliance with the specific procedures and standards set forth in the PRA. The entire record, including the certification and public comments received, would then be reviewed by an office with the authority to require changes in the proposal or reject it altogether if needed.

An effective, enforceable British version of the PRA would help minimize paperwork burdens and promote public participation and confidence in the information collection process while still protecting public security.

See news story

See ICO website

See history of centralized regulatory review

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