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Andrew Miller MP: "Your privacy is more valuable than you realise"

Andrew Miller, a Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston and chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, warned attendees of the Cyber Security Summit in London that their data is more valuable than they realise.

"Too little understanding of how valuable your privacy is leads to too many people giving an enormous amount of personal data to large corporations," he told a crowd of industry experts in Westminster's Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

The Commons Science and Technology Committee exists "to ensure that Government policy and decision-making are based on good scientific and engineering advice and evidence."

Miller has chaired the Committee since 2010.

"Government has always been involved in the high-stakes national security issues - the Tom Clancy stuff," he told conference delegates, "but we thought that this missed out the ordinary people."

He said that in most cases reviewed by the committee, "it wasn't the systems that were being targeted, but the people using them."

The Science and Technology Committee is determined to provide a different role to other committees that perform similar reviews, according to Miller.

"We wanted to do something other than just repeat the work of our colleagues in other departments."

The primary responsibility of the government, Miller said, was to increase confidence in the Internet, and thus allow economic growth to take place online.

"There's a responsibility in government to encourage people to engage in the online world without fearing for their safety," he said. "The government needs to do more to educate people about what good practice and hygiene is in the online world."

The minister also praised the work of the Get Safe Online organisation, which he commended for its free advice and help for enterprises.

"I'm a big believer in the work of the Get Safe Online, but they are drastically under-resourced," he said.

"Data is a large part of the problem. We have to make sure that data is correct, and that it is also safe. It sometimes frustrates me that data that could be connected together is held in tightly-sealed silos."

However, there is an opposite side to that argument.

"Too much data online can eradicate the expectation of privacy," he warned, "and official data shouldn't facilitate that erosion of an individual's privacy."

He said that the government's approach to big data so far has been one of cautious optimism.

"My committee is looking into big data," he assured delegates. "How it could benefit us, but also what the dangers are."

He even touched on the role of the intelligence services in carrying out their operations in a manner that doesn't harm the overall security of the Internet.

"Some of the processes haven't been as rigorously regulated, and haven't been exposed to sufficient intellectual scrutiny," he told delegates.

And of course there are civil liberties concerns, too.

"There are inevitably people who work on the basis of what happens if we produce a less benign government - but that's up to all of you," he said.

The one-day Cyber Security Summit 2013 was held in London, and addressed a wide range of issues including the latest in data protection policy, the economic prospects for establishing the UK as a cyber-security hub, and the growing threat of state sponsored hacking.

Image: Flickr (The Institute of Physics; Rajan Manickavasagam)