Government by the media, of the media and for the media?

During 2011 Big Brother Watch has continued to highlight the risks to privacy posed by the potential misuse of personal information held by both the public and private sector. Our reports into the police, NHS and local government have been the most thorough examination of public sector data protection breaches ever undertaken.

We are in agreement with the Information Commissioner and the House of Commons Justice Select Committee that the potential harm of personal information being abused or stolen warrants the availability of a custodial sentence in the most serious of cases. The power has already been passed into law in the 2008 Criminal Justice and Immigration Act , but requires the Government to order it’s enaction.

Today the Government has said that it is not yet convinced of the arguments. Responding to a report by the Justice Committee into the theft of personal data and referral fees, which called for custodial sentences to be brought into effect, the Government said it did “not believe that now is the correct time to introduce custodial sentences” because accusations that have emerged during the phone hacking scandal mean the media has a “direct interest” in the issue.

To be clear: the Government is ignoring expert advice because it is worried that journalists (who may or may not have broken the law) would report the plans negatively.

For many years people have cynically suggested that Government policy was beholden to good PR and that journalists could dicate policy as a result. They now have conclusive proof.