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Saturday, 14 May 2016

BBC TV Licence Voyeurs Seek Data Snooping Powers

The BBC, in its role as the statutory Television Licensing Authority, is seeking voyeuristic new powers that will allow it to snoop on the personal data of millions of TV and broadband subscribers.

Under current arrangements the BBC has no legal rights to access the customer personal data held by television and internet service providers like Sky, Virgin and BT. Any service provider that did pass information to the BBC would almost certainly be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.

However, under proposals buried deep in the Government's new white paper, A BBC for the future: a broadcaster of distinction, service providers could be compelled to pass subscriber data to the BBC for the purposes of TV licence enforcement.

The white paper said: "The Perry Review recommended that TV Licensing may be better able to target households without a TV licence if there were a requirement for cable and satellite television companies to share their subscription information with TV Licensing."

Such data could include customers' names, addresses, telephone numbers and dates of birth. Any data received from the service providers would then be cross-matched against the TV Licensing database, in an effort to detect TV licence fee evaders.

Around 3,000 people a week are hauled before Magistrates' Courts in England and Wales on TV licence evasion charges. There are genuine concerns that granting the BBC new data snooping powers will see a surge in the number of prosecutions, many of which are founded on the flimsiest of evidence.

Capita Business Services, the TV Licensing contractor responsible for enforcement of the TV licence fee, has a pretty bad record when it comes to protecting customers' personal data.

Mindful of this, we'd suggest that granting the BBC access to even more data - 99% of which will be totally irrelevant as it will belong to correctly licensed viewers - will probably result in significant data breaches in the future.

The BBC and TV Licensing cannot be trusted to manage people's personal data in a safe and responsible manner. Any suggestion to the contrary must be opposed in the strongest possible terms.

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Anonymous said...

As well as Data Protection issues, forcing a company to provide a competitor with the names, addresses and date of birth of its customers would likely be against European competition legislation.

Admin said...

Thanks WK for your comment.
I'm looking into it. You know where we are if you have anything else.

Anonymous said...

Solution - VPN or other such private system. Simples!

Fred Bear said...

The goons would still have to get someone at the household to sign a TVL178 self-incrimination form in order to carry out a prosecution. They have to prove that a named person at an address watched or recorded broadcast TV on a particular date or range of dates.

keithff@hotmail.com said...

I find this all wrong. No one should get a criminal record simply for not paying their TVs license.
At the moment I cannot pay it even if I wanted to. My PIP has been reduced by £50 per week. I have £3.50 to see me through until the third of next month because every penny I get in until then goes to just pay my monthly accounts. I cannot survive as it is.

Shady Pete said...

@Fred Bear
Not necessarily. Such data could possibly lead to a Search Warrant if there's no other way to interrogate a suspected "evader" and obtain a signed TVL178. This measure must be resisted. I'm LLF and only have basic broadband, no other services.

Fred Bear said...

I wouldn't worry about search warrants, Shady Pete. There's roughly one goon per 100,000 households in the UK. They publicise warrants and detector van visits but they don't have the manpower to carry out anything but token use of such powers. Basically, they trudge around looking for easy pickings so they can claim their commission.