Press Association –
Google, Facebook and other major companies must be regulated as they pose a greater risk to personal data than the security services, a former intelligence worker-turned-MP has said.
Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North) said large capitalist firms were harvesting data from individuals and selling it on to make billions of pounds yet, unlike the state, they were not subject to regulations to protect people.
Mr Wallace, who worked in intelligence in Northern Ireland, said he would rather have the security services grooming his internet as democratic bodies were in place to oversee their work.
But the Tory said he had yet to hear one criticism, fear or demand from fellow MPs to regulate the private sector.
The Guardian must produce evidence British spies are breaking British laws, Mr Wallace added.
He said the newspaper’s public interest defence for publishing leaked intelligence from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden hinges on whether the security services or Government have committed a crime.
Mr Wallace also said his former intelligence colleagues hated the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000) also known as Ripa, which indicated they are accountable for their actions.
He said the laws did not introduce any new powers but made sure people registered how they used their existing ones.
Mr Wallace told MPs: ” Privately, without being a member of the security service or a government, I can find out where every one of you in this room shops, I can find out where you live, I can find out where you bought your car, I can find out your credit rating, I can probably get hold of everybody’s details without very much effort.
“But what I find interesting is I’ve not yet heard one criticism or fear or demand that we regulate the private sector. The big capitalist companies in America – the Googles, the Facebooks – harvest our data without your leave, sell it on to intermediaries on and on and on.
“They make millions, billions of pounds, avoid tax – I haven’t yet heard anyone saying how they all keep their servers offshore to avoid tax – and that’s the area that needs regulating and protection.
“I’m proud that our security services are regulated. I’d rather have the state than the private sector all over the world grooming through my internet capabilities because I know that we are first of all oversighted.
“Forgive me but we’re in the Houses of Parliament, we’re all elected, we are democratically elected to this House and this is the first part of the oversight. We have a home secretary appointed by a prime minister put together in a government through a democratic process.
“There’s a second part of the oversight. We have an Intelligence Act 1994, that actually started mentioning the intelligence services as if they are normal bodies like everything else.
“We have the Ripa. There’s something about Ripa, lots of colleagues criticise Ripa. I was operating before Ripa. I didn’t have to sign-off anything. I didn’t have to put a log. I didn’t have to register with anybody what I wanted to do. Ripa actually didn’t give people new powers, it made people register how they used their powers.
“Actually a good bit of legislation, not a negative bit of legislation. My former colleagues still hate it and that’s a good sign that they are accountable for how they use their powers.”
On The Guardian’s revelations, Mr Wallace said the paper is perfectly welcome to publish information of British spies breaking British laws at any time.
He said: I would be delighted to have a meeting with the editor of The Guardian and he can publish it. But until he does that he doesn’t have a public interest defence, other to say, ‘Yahoo, look at how exciting technology is, look what we can do’.
“Well, that is not a public interest defence. That’s trying to sell more newspapers.”
Mr Wallace said Britain spied on other countries to protect itself and to further its interests.
He told MPs: “I think we should be proud that we do it particularly well. Not only do we do it well, we do it better than most across the globe and it gives Britain a place at the top table.”