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British PM speaks on liberty and privacy

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Last week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke on the subject of liberty – a wide ranging speech that touched on British constitutional history as well as modern concepts of liberty, privacy and access to information.

It’s important to remember that the British system of laws and government is different to the Canadian system, but we have similar values about privacy, access to information and liberty.

“… I want to explore how together we can write a new chapter in our country’s story of lliberty – and do so in world where, as in each generation, traditional questions about the freedoms and responsibilities of the individual re-emerge but also where new issues of terrorism and security, the internet and modern technology are opening new frontiers in both our lives and our liberties…

… In my view, the key to making these hard choices in a way that is compatible with our traditions of liberty is to, at all times, apply the liberty test, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and wherever action is needed by government, it never subjects the citizen to arbitrary treatment, is transparent and proportionate in its measures and at all times also requires proper scrutiny by, and accountability to, Parliament and the people…

… The information age has, as Tom Friedman has so well drawn out, flattened hierarchies and potentially increased the power of all citizens. So we should not fear the advent of the information age – and it should not lead us to abandon or fear for our values – but at the same time I believe we require a new and imaginative approach to accountability and to winning people’s trust in the ways in which information is held and used…” (Text of Speech)

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