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.
If you've found this article useful please consider using our Amazon link for your shopping or downloading our free ebook.