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 Liberty News

 2009: Oct-Dec



26th December   

Update: Unanimously Unimpressed...

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Mobile phone companies unimpressed by Government communications snooping
Link Here  full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Every UK mobile network has serious objections to plans to intercept and store details of every communication via the internet, Home Office documents reveal.

Submissions to a government consultation from 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone highlight the strength of industry concern over the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), which aims to capture lists of online contacts and log all website visits and VoIP calls.

The documents - obtained by The Register under the Freedom of Information Act - show how criticism forced the Home Office to stall the scheme after the consultation closed last month. They also voice doubts over whether the government is capable of implementing or maintaining the type of system it wants.

The mobile operators variously attack IMP's technical feasibility, its legality, its impact on customer privacy and its opaque £2bn cost estimate. They also question the consultation's assertion that the ability to access records of all communications is essential for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to do their jobs.

The government asked mobile operators to comment on proposals that would compel them to intercept details of when and where each of their customers use third party communications services such as Facebook and Skype, as well as who they contact. The operators would process and store this information in massive datacentres, matching it to build searchable profiles of customers and devices for authorities.

 

23rd December   

Update: Identifying Shambles...

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ID cards to be extended to London but are not valid on ferries
Link Here  full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

UK ID cardThe Government's identity-card scheme has been branded a farce last night after it was revealed it will be expanded this week - despite Alistair Darling casting doubt over the future of the project.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson is expected to announce within the next few days that 16 to 24-year-olds in London will be able to apply for £30 voluntary ID cards.

But the move comes just days after the Chancellor appeared to suggest that he would cut the funding for ID cards.

It also follows a shambolic launch of voluntary ID cards in Liverpool last week when Home Office Minister Meg Hillier turned up to promote them, but left hers at home.

Based on article from theregister.co.uk

An early adopter of the UK's controversial ID card was refused passage when he tried to board a ferry to Rotterdam.

Norman Eastwood and his wife had booked a passage from Hull with P&O Ferries on Saturday. The ID card, which has been offered on a voluntary basis to the public in Greater Manchester as part of a limited trial since last month, is meant to allow travel across Europe as an alternative to a passport.

However P&O staff at check-in had never seen the card before and didn't know it was a valid travel document. The unfortunate Eastwood was told he would need his passport - which he had left at home - to travel.

We had no idea the ID card was being trialled, a P&O spokesman explained. Mr Eastwood turned up with a form of ID we didn't recognise. He was told that he wasn't going anywhere without a passport.

Eastwood was left with little option but to abandon Xmas shopping plans and head home, some 105 miles away. He told the BBC that the incident left him feeling humiliated and like a second-class citizen .

The ferry firm has offered Eastwood free ferry tickets and an apology for the mix-up. P&O has informed staff at all its UK ports about the ID card in order to prevent a repetition of the incident.

In a statement, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) said: We have a standard and well established process for informing border agencies and carriers around the world of any change to international travel documents, which we followed in this case. We are speaking to P&O to understand why this happened and ensure that there can be no repeat of it.

 

10th December   

Identity Theft...

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Government propose to extend personal data on the Electoral Register
Link Here

Electoral Commission logoA recent speech was given by the Injustice Minister , Michael Wills, announcing an extension to personal data on the public record in the Electoral Register:

I am announcing today that the Ministry of Justice will host an event early in the New Year to consider how we approach the data sharing aspects of reforms to the electoral register. The electoral register is a vital document. It is the foundation stone of our democratic processes and vital to the integrity of our elections. It has also, since the 19th century, been a public document - although there are important restrictions on who may obtain a copy of the full register.

The register is held locally, by some 400 different Electoral Registration Officers. The unit of electoral registration has historically been the household. The Government passed legislation this summer to move to a system of individual registration - where each person will provide their name and address, and three personal identifiers - signature, date of birth, and national Insurance number - in order to be entered onto the register.

From article on electoralcommission.org.uk

From 2011 onwards, we will report annually to Parliament on the progress of the voluntary collection of personal identifiers - National Insurance number, signature and date of birth - from electors, to make sure that the conditions are appropriate before any move to compulsory provision of identifiers. We will be working closely with those who maintain registers and run elections across the UK to increase the number of eligible people on the electoral register and to support the successful introduction of individual electoral registration.

 

9th December   

No Privacy from the Police...

Yahoo! try to ban leaked document revealing what information they can provide to the US authorities
Link Here

Yahoo logoYahoo isn’t happy that a detailed menu of the spying services it provides law enforcement agencies has leaked onto the web.

Shortly after Threat Level reported this week that Yahoo had blocked the FOIA release of its law enforcement and intelligence price list, someone provided a copy of the company’s spying guide to the whistleblower site Cryptome .

The 17-page guide describes Yahoo’s data retention policies and the surveillance capabilities it can provide law enforcement, with a pricing list for these services.

Cryptome has also published lawful data-interception guides for Cox Communications, SBC, Cingular, Nextel, GTE and other telecoms and service providers. But of all those companies, it appears to be Yahoo’s lawyers alone who have issued a DMCA takedown notice to Cryptome demanding the document be removed. Yahoo claims that publication of the document is a copyright violation, and gave Cryptome owner John Young a Thursday deadline for removing the document. So far, Young has refused.

 

7th December   

I'm a Jedi Tri-Sexual...

Another UK database being commissioned to record sexuality and religion
Link Here

Equality and Human Rights CommissionPeople will be routinely asked to answer sensitive questions about their sexuality so a Government quango can compile a massive equalities database.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is to take information given in confidence by millions and place it on a huge Lifestyle Database .

It will draw information from sources including visits to A&E departments, government surveys and the reporting of crimes to police.

In order for bureaucrats to measure whether gay or straight citizens are suffering greater inequality , the EHRC said everybody should be asked to provide information about their sexual identity. They will be asked if they are heterosexual/straight, gay/lesbian, bisexual or other.

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said: This intrusive database is being built without even the smallest consideration for privacy. When people go to hospital, they don't think that information about their illness is going to be shared with the EHRC. What possible right does the EHRC have to build this database, and then share what they've gathered with other people on their website?

Details of the plan emerged after the EHRC, led by chairman Trevor Phillips, began the tendering process for establishing the database.

Freedom of Information requests, obtained by the Old Holborn blogger, then revealed what the scheme involved.

Equalities bosses have decided they must work out whether citizens are suffering inequality based upon various different factors. These include age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief, transgender status, ethnicity and social class. Citizens' characteristics will be checked through their answers to various government surveys and information on whether they need hospital care or have called the police.

 

6th December   

Update: Spinning Smart Meters...

This is not a meter - it's a remote-control
Link Here  full story: Smart Meters...Power companies to remotely control power usage

The government has announced the results of its consultation with the public and other interested parties on plans for smart energy meters to be installed in all British homes and businesses. The most controversial aspects of the devices - the fact that they will effectively allow remote control of a home by energy companies and/or the grid authority - have apparently passed unchallenged.

Many of the proposed capabilities of smart meters, to be universally installed by 2020, are relatively uncontroversial.

The machines will be run like Sky or TiVo boxes, under remote control from outside the home - users will have no control over them.

Real time power monitoring like this already rings some alarm bells - it will usually be possible, for instance, to use such data to tell if people are in or out, and perhaps other details such as what TV programmes they like to watch, how many hot drinks they consume, whether they cook with a microwave or an oven etc. Such information is significant in a privacy context, and valuable in bulk to marketing organisations.

Apart from being able to turn a house off and on remotely, however, the unspecified people who control the meters from afar will also have other capabilities. Specifically, the boxes will have load management capability to deliver demand side management - ability to remotely control electricity load for more sophisticated control of devices in the home .

Demand management is industry code for power rationing or cuts. Controlling load , as the consultation says, is a matter of turning things on or off, up or down. Quite bluntly, this is not a meter - it's a remote-control device in charge of your house, and potentially of everything in it.

 

3rd December   

Update: Stasi Britain...

£500 reward for snitching on sub-letting neighbours
Link Here

StasiMembers of the British public will receive £500 rewards to shop their neighbours via telephone hotlines under a scheme announced today.

The handouts will go to the first 1,000 people who provide tip-offs that lead to an unlawfully occupied home being repossessed.

The government plans are aimed at the illegal sub-letting of social housing. In London, £250,000 will be available in rewards.

As well as hotlines, special websites and email addresses will be set up to allow informants to pass on their suspicions, while there will also be publicity campaigns to encourage reporting.

Ministers say the cash incentives will help ensure that all council and housing association homes are lived in by those genuinely in need.

Ministers say the scheme, which will cost £4 million, will help tackle other problems such as prostitution, drug production, illegal immigration and anti-social behaviour that can occur in sub-let housing.

But critics said the payments were a further dangerous example of ministers encouraging unwarranted snooping. Dylan Sharpe of campaign group Big Brother Watch claimed the move showed the Government was creating an army of citizen snoopers .

 

30th November   

Dab Hands at Biometrics...

UK Border Agency starts fingerprinting visitors
Link Here

fingerprints Fingerprint checks on foreigners at border controls will begin at the end of November, says the UK Border Agency.

In addition to usual checks at UK border controls, from 30 November 2009 overseas nationals arriving in the country will have their fingerprints scanned.

All passengers with biometric UK visas, entry clearances and identity cards for foreign nationals will undergo the new procedure.

The purpose of these checks is to verify that the individual entering the United Kingdom is the same person who gave their biometrics when they applied for their visa, entry clearance or identity card for foreign nationals, said the UK Border Agency in a statement. Using fingerprints enables us to do this with greater certainty.

 

30th November   

Centralised Monitoring System...

India outline their communication snooping proposals
Link Here

India flag The Indian government has announced its own version of the UK's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) - a massive expansion of communications surveillance for the internet age. A pilot of the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS) will begin by June next year, communications minister Gurudas Kamat has said.

Like the British project, CMS probes will be configured centrally and allow intelligence and law enforcement agencies to easily intercept calls, texts and internet sessions.

The system will also create huge silos of communications data (who contacts whom, when, where and how) to be analysed and mined. But while UK ministers plan to outsource storage and initial processing to ISPs and phone companies, the Indian government plans its own series of regional and central databases.

 

30th November   

An Unhealthy State...

Parents asked if their kids are problem children
Link Here

Dept of Health Parents of five-year-olds starting school have been sent an 83-point questionnaire that probes personal details of their lives.

It asks whether their children tell lies or bully others, and if they steal at home or from shops. Parents are questioned over whether they have friends, if they can speak freely with others in their family and how well they did at school themselves. The form also delves into family routines, questioning whether they eat takeaways and if the children drink water with their meals.

Thousands of families in Lincolnshire were sent the forms as part of trials of a Healthy Child Programme being developed in Whitehall.

The Department of Health wants all families in England and Wales to fill in similar forms. The information will be held indefinitely on NHS databases for the use of health workers. Planners want new forms submitted each year to build up a detailed picture of the family and their children's development. Children themselves will fill in questionnaires when they become old enough.

Parents have been told the information is confidential but it will be available to health workers who will decide whether families should be approached by health visitors offering 'support'.

There is no legal compulsion to fill in the School Entry Wellbeing Review forms, but parents who do not are likely to be visited by community nurses charged with identifying vulnerable families.

Dylan Sharpe of the Big Brother Watch pressure group said: This is incredibly intrusive and asks questions which, quite frankly, Lincolnshire Community Health Services do not need to know and have no right knowing. Even worse, the NHS Trust has failed to make it clear that this is a voluntary questionnaire. I would advise any parent receiving this to stick it straight in the bin.

Jill Kirby of the centre-right think tank Centre for Policy Studies said: This is badly wrong for a number of reasons. Parents are not told how the information will be used, nor that they can refuse to give it and it will create worry and suspicion among many families.

 

18th November   

Update: Stasi Britain...

North London council to recruit 2000 neighbourhood snoopers
Link Here

Stasi A Conservative council has been criticised for recruiting 2,000 residents to snitch on their neighbours for litter infringements and anti-social behaviour.

Harrow Council in north west London wants 2,000 people - one for every 100 residents - to sign up as a Neighbourhood Champion and report minor crimes, anti-social behaviour, litter and vandalism.

Campaigners have accused them of recruiting an army of snoopers and said the scheme would lead to less trust and more surveillance .

The council spokesman claimed they wanted to restore old-fashioned community values .

If the £70,000 plan is approved this week, officials will begin recruiting volunteers with the aim of starting the scheme next year.

Each one will be given training from town hall officials and police officers and issued with a manual setting out their role. Once the scheme is up and running, they will be given access to a council website to record their reports.

A council spokesman said they wanted the volunteers to be a point of contact for the council and report abandoned cars, graffiti and other problems.

Four fifths of residents questioned in a survey backed the idea of street champions for every neighbourhood.

But Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the Orwellian scheme would create an army of council snoopers .

He said: So now councils are trying to get us to spy on one another. If they're successful it will lead to even less trust and ever more surveillance. An Orwellian big brother culture depends on everyone spying on everyone else - just as Harrow has planned.

Sabina Frediani, campaigns co-ordinator at human rights group Liberty, said: Everyone should feel able to report suspicions of crime without any special badge of approval from the local authority. But as the recent abuses of surveillance powers demonstrate, giving some citizens extra responsibilities is difficult and potentially dangerous. Civic duty is one thing but policing is best left to the professionals.

 

17th November   

Offsite: Eavesdropping on a Nasty Government...

Email surveillance: ditch it for good
Link Here  full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Big Brother Labour is right to think plans to snoop on our internet use will harm its election chances – but have they really been shelved?

The government is playing a two-handed game over its plan to snoop on all our communication and internet activity. On the one hand, officials have put it about that the scheme has been indefinitely shelved because of concerns raised in the public consultation on the proposals. On the other, Home Office insiders assure me that the government has no intention of putting the scheme on hold. Any statements to the contrary are designed to mitigate the risk of a negative campaign in the run-up to the general election.

The government quite rightly perceives an election risk because of its surveillance plans. It is, after all, proposing to reach deep into the private life of everyone in the nation. From your phone records and emails to your activity on social networking sites such as Facebook, the government wants to know everything you do.

The scheme is a political disaster in the making. Both the Tories and the Lib Dems have positioned themselves with a reform agenda on privacy. The mere existence of a surveillance plan of this magnitude would have created the sort of clear blue water that no government would want. Bad enough that it has already created a surveillance society second to none in the democratic world; even worse if it was seen to be moving toward a North Korean model.

....Read full article

 

11th November   

Offsite: Internet Snooping Delayed...

Home Office aspires to read your emails
Link Here  full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Big Brother Legislation for the interception modernisation programme will not be included in the Queen's speech next week. But do not relax: the Home Office has an unyielding ambition to grant itself and 653 authorities access to the data from every email, phone call, text message and internet connection.

This apparent withdrawal is in fact a long-range strategy that seeks to defuse the issue before the general election, at a time when there is increasing fear about Britain's surveillance state. How wise would it have been to make the Queen rehearse these dreadful measures in her speech, just a week after celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Stasi? The Home Office and Alan Johnson know better than to make a gift like this to those who question not just this government's motives but the relentlessly authoritarian agenda in the Home Office.

There are other good reasons for the delay, now that the idea of an expensive single database has been abandoned. The companies who will be charged with gathering and retaining information on their customers have raised doubts about feasibility, as well as privacy and cost. The Home Office must gain their compliance. So they have taken the heat out of the issue and are biding their time until a future Conservative government has been groomed by officials to see the overwhelming need for this massive spy system.

...Read the full article

 

10th November   

Home Inspectors...

UK government considering home inspection in the name of 'child safety'
Link Here

Big Brother Family homes could be invaded by health and safety inspectors checking that parents are keeping their children safe.

Whitehall is recommending that inspectors make sure parents have fitted smoke alarms, stair gates, locks on medicine cupboards, windows and ovens, and temperature controls to stop bath water getting too hot.

The proposed scheme was condemned by critics as a nightmarish intrusion into family life.

The Department of Health has already had the National Institute of Clinical Excellence draw up guidelines to reduce unintentional injuries among under-15s in the home .

Its draft guidelines call for inspections of home safety to be carried out by trained staff from the NHS or councils. Officials would identify homes where children are thought to be most at risk of accidents and offer home risk assessments .

The guidance states: A home risk assessment involves systematically identifying potential hazards in the home, evaluating those risks and proving information-or advice on how to reduce them.

There will be repeated return visits to check that parents have maintained their safety devices.

NICE has also called for a computer database to be set up to pick the homes and families who will be targeted for safety inspections.

Researcher Patricia Morgan said: This is a nightmarish prospect. This is vetting and barring extended to the home. It is a major step towards total state control. When state intervention creeps into your home, where does it end? Will you have to have cameras in your house?

Shami Chakrabarti, of Liberty, the human rights group, said: Why can't we have a public information campaign before we rush into creating databases and intrusion and introducing bureaucracy to the living room?

Simon Davies, of watchdog group Privacy International, said: The problem here is the additional powers that would go to government authorities. Anybody who stands in the way of inspections will be considered suspect. This represents a landmark expansion of government intervention in home life. It must be regarded with great concern and suspicion. If the database identifies you but you are uncooperative or you refuse to comply, the next step will be your door broken down at five in the morning. That will happen as surely as night follows day.

 

9th November   

Speeding Past 1984...

EU studies black boxes to monitor private cars
Link Here

Big Brother Cars could be fitted with aircraft-style black boxes, under European Commission plans that opponents fear could lead to a further expansion of the big brother state.

The European Commission has spent £2.4 million on Project Veronica, a study on how the boxes would work. The boxes, known as an Event Data Recorders (EDR), could monitor vehicles' speed and the actions of the driver - when and how often the brakes, indicators and horn were applied.

Supporters say they could be used to reconstruct what happened in the event of a commission which would make it easier for insurance companies to decide who was at fault and, where necessary, enable police to take action against the driver.

However, the proposals are likely to trigger concern among civil liberties groups over the growth of the surveillance state.

Simon Davies, of Privacy International, warned that in future, such a system could be combined with other technology to keep a constant eye on motorists' every movement: If you correlate car tracking data with mobile phone data, which can also track people, there is the potential for an almost infallible surveillance system, he said

However such concerns have been dismissed in the Project Veronica report. Anonymised EDR data would be of very limited use in the judicial process and in that regard there is no obvious reason for which data privacy rights should supersede public order and crime investigation, it notes.

The EDR would be triggered by a sudden change to the car's speed - such as abrupt braking. It would record the events 30 seconds before a crash and 15 seconds afterwards, with the information being downloaded by the police or at special workshops.

The use of black boxes would, the report adds: Help explain the causes of accidents, will make motorists more responsible, speed up court proceedings following accidents, lower the cost of court proceedings and enable more effective prevention measures to be taken.

These black boxes could also be used by car-hire companies to both to sue a motorist who was at fault in the event of an crash and, according to the report, to compile a black list of drivers who are involved in accidents but do not report them

But there is likely to be consumer resistance at plans to put the boxes, which could cost up to £500 each, into every vehicle. Norwich Union tried installing black boxes as part of its pay as you drive insurance policy, but eventually abandoned the project.

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director for Big Brother Watch, said: These boxes are yet another means of surveillance that will give anyone with the means to decode them the ability to find out exactly where you have been. It starts with the police and insurance companies and ends with vicious employers and jealous partners watching your journeys.

 

8th November   

Update: Digging up the Dirt...

See what Google are holding on you
Link Here

Google logo Google has released a dashboard that shows all the data it has from the Google products you use. That includes Gmail, Docs, Web History and YouTube among others. For example in the Gmail category, Google tells you how many e-mails you've sent and received and how many conversations you've had through its chat client.

The dashboard is also a central hub with links out to the privacy settings on all of these apps, so you can manage your personal information easily. It doesn't include several of Google's newer apps including Wave, along with analytics and book search.

 

6th November   

Update: More Spies and More Spin...

UK increases snooping whilst spinning that particularly trivial offences will be taken off the list of justifications
Link Here  full story: Council Snooping...Concil snooping for trivial reasons

The agency responsible for tracing absent parents is to be given access to phone and email records for the first time, under Home Office rules.

The Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC), which has taken over the heavily criticised Child Support Agency, said the surveillance powers will allow it to find a hard core of 5,000 missing parents who are refusing to pay towards their children.

The move came as the Home Office announced plans to stop local authorities from using covert spying techniques for particularly trivial offences such as dog fouling or putting a bin out on the wrong day.

It is part of a review of the use of powers by public bodies under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which has town halls have been accused of abusing.

Investigators for the CMEC will now be given access to communications data stored by phone companies and internet service providers in cases where other methods of investigation have failed.

Such data shows who the target is speaking to on the phone, or contacting by emai. It will allow access to billing data showing an absent parent's address.

As well as tracking down those who have escaped detection, the powers will also be used on parents who do make some payments but are suspected of lying about their wealth.

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: Only this Government could claim to be curtailing Ripa powers while extending them to a new body for the investigation of a different offence. Ministers cannot be trusted to govern the use of these intrusive powers, which is why their use should be authorised by magistrates.

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said: Saying that these new extensions to RIPA will only target benefits cheats and parents that fail to pay child support is all well and good; but given recent experience most people will be waiting for cases that show the powers are being used for other, more nefarious reasons.

Ministers rejected suggestions that magistrates should authorise all uses of Ripa, arguing it could seriously impair investigations.

 

1st November   

Update: Brits Uninphormed...

EU accuses Britain of failing to protect citizens from internet snooping
Link Here  full story: Behavioural Advertising...Serving adverts according to internet snooping

EU flag Ministers face an embarrassing showdown in court after the European Commission accused Britain of failing to protect its citizens from secret surveillance on the internet.

The legal action is being brought over the use of controversial behavioural advertising services which were tested on BT's internet customers without their consent to gather commercial information about their web-shopping habits.

Under the programme, the UK-listed company Phorm has developed technology that allows internet service providers (ISPs) to track what their users are doing online. ISPs can then sell that information to media companies and advertisers, who can use it to place more relevant advertisements on websites the user subsequently visits. The EU has accused Britain of turning a blind eye to the growth in this kind of internet marketing.

Ministers were warned by the EU in April that if the Government failed to combat internet data snooping it would face charges before the European Court of Justice. The European Commission made it clear this week that it is unhappy with the Government's response and began further legal action to force ministers to address the problem. Commissioners are disappointed that there is still no independent national authority to supervise interception of communications.

Europe's information commissioner Viviane Reding said that the aim of the Commission was to bring about a change in UK law. People's privacy and the integrity of their personal data in the digital world is not only an important matter: it is a fundamental right, protected by European law, she said. I therefore call on the UK authorities to change their national laws to ensure that British citizens fully benefit from the safeguards set out in EU law concerning confidentiality of electronic communications.

The Commission said the UK had failed to comply with both the European e-Privacy Directive and the Data Protection Directive.

 

30th October   

Big Brother Watch...

4 in 5 people believe freedoms are being eroded in Britain
Link Here

Big Brother Watch Logo New polling suggests that the British people are staunchly opposed to the big brother legislation being enacted by the government:

  • In response to the statement our freedoms are being eroded by a Big Brother state - 45% of respondents answered strongly agree and 34% somewhat agree
     
  • Just 16% of those asked supported the use of CCTV cameras capable of recording conversations - such as those trailed in Glasgow earlier this year
     
  • A staggering 82% of people disagreed that placing microchips in refuse bins to monitor the waste thrown away by households was an acceptable measure to encourage recycling - despite 42 local authorities currently monitoring the habits of over 2 million households
     
  • 86% of people think that the government can't be trusted to keep our personal information safe - up from 58% in just 7 years

Big Brother Watch, a new campaign from the founders of the TaxPayers' Alliance fighting intrusions on the privacy and liberties of ordinary Britons, has commissioned survey research which suggests that the British people are finally getting sick and tired of the sort of big brother legislation daily being pushed through Parliament by the Government.

The polling, commissioned by Big Brother Watch and conducted by PoliticsHome, asked 1,353 adults across the UK to give their opinions on various different measures of the big brother state; with some remarkable results (see full breakdown here).

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:

Britain is a country rightly known around the world as a cradle of liberty and freedom. But as these results show, most people now feel that our freedoms are being eroded. We are the victims of ever more intrusive policies, pushing more and more into the details of our lives.

The Government doesn't seem to care that Big Brother Britain has been rejected by the vast majority of people who live here. They continue to pursue expensive and invasive surveillance methods that serve only to create criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

 

29th October   

Power Abuse...

Police find new wheeze to stifle protestors
Link Here  full story: Policing UK Demonstrations...Heavy handing policing of demonstrations

Didcot Power station Ten protesters who were arrested during an occupation of a power station have been barred from going into Oxfordshire.

Restrictions were imposed by police on the climate change protesters, who have yet to be charged over the occupation of Didcot power station, near Oxford.

They are the latest example of punitive pre-charge bail conditions, which lawyers warn are becoming widespread as a quasi-legal tool used by police to stifle protest. Police were given the power to use pre-charge bail conditions under a barely noticed amendment to the Police and Justice Act in 2006. They can even be imposed by officers in the street without taking the suspect to a police station.

It has resulted in activists who have not been charged with any crime having wide-ranging restrictions imposed on them, from entering London or Scotland, to walking near power stations or attending a Climate Camp protest.

One case concerns Guy Mitchell, who was walking home from an environmental protest meeting in Leeds two weeks ago when an unmarked black saloon pulled up alongside him. Three plainclothes police officers told him he was under arrest. He was being arrested, in effect, for something he had not yet done and for which he has not so far been charged.

Mitchell has now twice been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage. Conspiracy offences rely on police being able to prove someone intended to break the law, an accusation Mitchell calls thought crime . He points out that despite the two conspiracy arrests, he has yet to be charged, and believes the pre-emptive arrest laws are being used to bar him from demonstrating.

His most recent arrest on 14 October occurred three days before another protest against the same power station, owned by E.ON. He said six police officers spent three hours searching his home. He was questioned about his family and political beliefs. He was asked to explain every recent text message sent on his phone.

Mike Schwarz of Bindmans, an expert in public order law, said: The police now bail people repeatedly for long periods of time - sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes for over a year - without having to prove wrongdoing and often based on nothing other than the say so of the arresting officer.

 

27th October   

Offsite: Terror Tactics...

Police re-brand lawful protest as 'domestic extremism'
Link Here  full story: Policing UK Demonstrations...Heavy handing policing of demonstrations

North Yorkshire police badge After the demonstration known as Climate Camp, North Yorkshire police conducted a review along with government officials. Internal papers obtained by the Guardian show they called it the first time domestic extremism took place against national infrastructure in the county .

The term domestic extremism is now common currency within the police. It is a phrase which shapes how forces seek to control demonstrations. It has led to the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of protesters being stored on secret police databases around the country. There is no official or legal definition of the term. Instead, the police have made a vague stab at what they think it means. Senior officers describe domestic extremists as individuals or groups that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process. They say they are mostly associated with single issues and suggest the majority of protesters are never considered extremists.

Police insist they are just monitoring the minority who could damage property or commit aggravated trespass, causing significant disruption to lawful businesses. Activists respond by claiming this is an excuse that gives police the licence to carry out widespread surveillance of whole organisations that are a legitimate part of the democratic process.

...Read full article

When police admit you could be put on a secret database for being at a demo, it's time to worry

See article from guardian.co.uk by Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas DVD I was sent the now notorious police spotter card through the post. It's an official laminated card for police eyes only and labelled as coming from CO11 Public Order Intelligence Unit . The card contained the photographs of 24 anti-arms trade protesters, unnamed but lettered A to X. My picture appeared as photo H. You can imagine my reaction at finding I was the subject of a secret police surveillance process … I was delighted. I phoned my agent and told him I was suspect H. He replied: Next year we'll get you top billing … suspect A.

The Metropolitan police circulated the card specifically for the Docklands biannual arms fair in London to help its officers identify people at specific events who may instigate offences or disorder . Which is such a flattering quote I am thinking of having it on my next tour poster. While being wanted outside the arms fair, I was legitimately inside researching a book on the subject, and uncovered four companies illegally promoting banned torture equipment. Questions were later asked in the Commons as to why HM Revenue & Customs and the police didn't spot it. Though, in fairness, none of the torture traders featured on the spotter card.

What exactly was I doing that was so awfully wrong as to merit this attention? Today's Guardian revelations of three secret police units goes some way to explain the targeting of protesters and raises worrying questions. The job of these units is to spy on protesters, and collate and circulate information about them. Protesters - or, as the police call them, domestic extremists - are the new reds under the bed .

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The Breakdown of Free Society

See article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

Henry Porter The shocking Guardian report into the surveillance operations run by the police National Public Order Intelligence Unit makes it clear that the right of free protest in Britain now hangs in the balance, and that the very expression of opinion and attendance at meetings is enough for an individual to be categorised as an enemy of society.

Anyone now who feels strongly about climate change or the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is now liable to be labelled a domestic extremist to be photographed and monitored and to be subject to automatic tracking by the number plate recognition system. There are few stories that capture the parlous state of Britain's democracy like this one, and I suggest none that portray the government's institutionalised contempt for rights and its casual attitude to unfettered growth of police powers.

The outrage that will be expressed in the wake of the investigation by Paul Lewis, Rob Evans and Matthew Taylor, which is to run over the next two days, will mean nothing unless we manage to change attitudes across the board. We now live in a society whose values and instincts have been so skewed by Labour's corrosive rule that it is possible in one week to watch the leader of a fascist organisation promoting his cause on BBC TV - and the next to learn that legitimate protesters with mainstream views are regarded as domestic extremists and harried by the police using anti-terror laws when their cars pass through the field of automatic number plate recognition cameras.

We seem to have lost the ability to navigate these issues with anything resembling common sense, which no doubt suits the authorities. They seem to desire more and more control over the individual and the expression of his or her political views.

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19th October   

UK Exit Visas...

Climate activist banned from leaving Britain
Link Here

UK Exit Visa Terror legislation was used to stop a British climate change activist from travelling to Denmark, it has emerged.

Chris Kitchen said he was prevented from crossing the border when the coach he was travelling on stopped at the Folkestone terminal of the Channel Tunnel.

Kitchen told the Guardian that police officers boarded the coach and, after checking all passengers' passports, took him and another climate activist to be interviewed under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a clause which enables border officials to stop and search individuals to determine if they are connected to terrorism.

He was asked what he intended to do in Copenhagen and also about his family, work and past political activity.

Kitchen said he pointed out that anti-terrorist legislation did not apply to environmental activists but said the officer replied that terrorism could mean a lot of things .

His coach had left by the time his 30-minute interview had finished and police paid for a ticket for him to return to London.

The use of anti-terrorist legislation like this is another example of political policing, of the government harassing and intimidating people practising their hard earned democratic rights, he told the Guardian. We are going to Copenhagen to take part in Climate Justice Action because we want to protest against false solutions like carbon trading and to build a global movement for effective, socially just solutions. People who are practising civil disobedience on climate change in the face of ineffectual government action are certainly not terrorists, and I am sure that their actions will be vindicated by history.

Friends of the Earth's head of climate Mike Childs said: It's outrageous to stop someone from travelling to Copenhagen to protest on climate change. Climate change is a global crisis that will have catastrophic consequences unless world leaders take drastic action to tackle it, so it's not surprising people want their voices to be heard. The police should be supporting people's right to protest peacefully.

 

19th October   

Prevent Spying...

Revelations show that the Prevent programme involves widespread spying on muslims
Link Here

Home Offie logo The government programme aimed at preventing Muslims from being lured into violent extremism is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism, the Guardian has learned.

The information the authorities are trying to find out includes political and religious views, information on mental health, sexual activity and associates, and other sensitive information, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

The intelligence is being gathered as part of the strategy Preventing Violent Extremism - Prevent for short. It was launched three years ago to stop people being lured to al-Qaida ideology and committing acts of terrorism.

The government and police have repeatedly denied that the £140m programme is a cover for spying on Muslims in Britain. But sources directly involved in running Prevent schemes say it involves gathering intelligence about the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims who are not involved in criminal activity.

Instances around the country include:

  • In the Midlands, funding for a mental health project to help Muslims was linked to information about individuals being passed to the authorities.
     
  • Within the last month, one new youth project in London alleged it was being pressured by the Metropolitan police to provide names and details of Muslim youngsters, as a condition of funding. None of the young Muslims have any known terrorist history.
     
  • In one London borough, those working with youngsters were told to add information to databases they hold to highlight which youths were Muslim. They were also asked to provide information, to be shared with the police, about which streets and areas Muslim youngsters could be found on.

Prevent is run by the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism, part of the Home Office. It is widely regarded in Whitehall as being an intelligence agency. The OSCT is headed up by Charles Farr, a former senior intelligence officer, with expertise in covert work. Also senior in the OSCT is another former senior intelligence officer. The Guardian has been asked not to name him for security reasons.

Ed Husain, of the Quilliam Foundation, who has advised both Labour and the Conservatives on extremism, said: It is gathering intelligence on people not committing terrorist offences.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty said she was horrified by the revelations. It is the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times, she said. It is information-gathering directed at the innocent and the spying is directed at people because of their religion, and not because of their behaviour.

 

17th October   

Update: Big Brother Slightly Less Big...

Sweden adds a few protections to state snooping on communications
Link Here  full story: Internet Snooping in Sweden...Sweden enacts law to monitor all communications

FRA logo Sweden's parliament has approved amendments limiting the scope of a controversial new law that allows all emails and telephone calls to be monitored in the name of national security.

The amendments were supported by 158 members of parliament following a heated debate in the chamber, and rejected by 153 deputies. One MP abstained.

The original legislation was adopted by a thin majority in June 2008. But an outcry erupted afterwards when it emerged that many of the MPs did not know the details of the law and critics within the four-party government claimed they were pressured to tow their party lines and support it.

As a result, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's centre-right government agreed to make changes. The law, which went into effect in January 2009, gives the National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA), a civilian agency despite its name, the right to tap all cross-border Internet and telephone communication.

Among other things, the amendment specifies that only the government and the military can ask FRA to carry out surveillance, that a special court must grant an authorisation for each case of monitoring, and that all raw material must be destroyed after one year.

It also limits eavesdropping to cases defined as external military threats, peacemaking or humanitarian efforts abroad, international terrorism, and development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, among others.

It also bars FRA from monitoring emails where both the senders and recipients are in Sweden, after critics pointed out that even emails sent between two people in Sweden can cross the border to be transmitted by servers located abroad.

Those who have been monitored must also be informed.

Despite the changes, the law remains controversial in Sweden, and the left-wing opposition said it would tear up the legislation if it came to power in next year's general election.

 

16th October   

Update: Trouble 'Justifies' ID Creep...

Council require customers' ID to be recorded at lap dancing club
Link Here  full story: CCTV for Pubs...Government dictating CCTV for pubs and off licences

Sandwell Council logo A lap dancing club has avoided having its opening hours slashed despite police concerns over a string of violent episodes.

Instead, Angels Gentlemen's Club in West Bromwich has been ordered to stick to a number of conditions after a hearing by licensing chiefs.

The club was hauled before a panel after police said it wanted the club to close at midnight after a number of late-night assaults, including a fight that left one man with a fractured cheekbone and a vicious robbery.

In a separate incident, a member of staff had a baseball bat. But at yesterday's meeting an agreement was reached to allow the club to remain open until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights provided bosses stick to stringent new rules.

Customers must be scanned by metal detectors and searched by staff, while lighting and CCTV must be installed on the car park.

A record of door staff must also be kept, and groups of five people or more will be refused entry unless they agree to have details of their identification taken.

 

15th October   

Update: Hardly a Perk...

First British ID cards go to Home Office staff
Link Here  full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

UK ID Card 2009 Phil Woolas, the Immigration minister, faced ridicule last night after announcing that his own civil servants would be the first Britons to be issued with identity cards. He told MPs that applications for the £30 cards could be made by UK nationals from next Tuesday.

Woolas added: This will apply to people working in the Home Office, the passport service and elsewhere, who are engaged on work relating to the issue of identity cards.

The scheme will be extended by the end of the year to residents of Greater Manchester and airside workers at Manchester and London City airports. Next year people across the North-west of England will be invited to apply for cards.

Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, said: This would be funny if it wasn't so expensive for the taxpayer. The Government is reduced to selling ID cards to its own staff in a desperate bid to prove that someone, somewhere, thinks that they would benefit from the identity card scheme.

A David for this surveillance Goliath?

See also article from guardian.co.uk by Henry Porter

Before the Conservative party conference I questioned the party's commitment to liberty, but I have to concede that there is some sign that David Cameron has taken on board the arguments being made here and elsewhere. In a part of his conference speech that was not well covered he said: To be British is to be sceptical of authority and the powers-that-be. That's why ID cards, 42 days and Labour's surveillance state are so utterly unacceptable, and why we will sweep the whole rotten edifice away.

 

13th October   

Smart Meter or Household Snitch?...

Nanny state to automatically turn off bedroom TVs after the watershed?
Link Here  full story: Smart Meters...Power companies to remotely control power usage

Smart meters could become a spy in the home by allowing social workers and health authorities to monitor households, adding to concern at Britain's surveillance society.

The devices, which the government plans to install in every home by 2020, will also tell energy firms what sort of appliances are being used, allowing companies to target customers who do not reduce their energy consumption.

Privacy campaigners have expressed horror at the proposalss, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says there is theoretically scope... for using the smart metering communications infrastructure to enable a variety of other services, such as monitoring of vulnerable householders by health authorities or social services departments.

It adds: Information from smart meters could also make it possible for a supplier to determine when electricity or gas was being used in a property and, to a degree, the types of technology that were being used within the property. This could be used to target energy efficiency advice and offers of measures, social programmes etc to householders.

Guy Herbert, general secretary of NO2ID, said: Information from smart meters might be useful to energy providers and perhaps even their customers, but there's no reason for any public authority to have access to it - unless they've a warrant to do so. This document is a prime example of government efforts to shoehorn data sharing and feature creep into every new policy. For example, it suggests that NHS or social services could use the system to monitor 'vulnerable householders', or that companies could use the system to spam customers with adverts for their services - having paid the government for the privilege, no doubt.

The DECC document adds households could even have their power to some appliances turned off remotely to help the national grid if there is too much demand. It says: In terms of potentially intrusive non-physical behaviour unrelated to data, smart metering potentially offers scope for remote intervention such as dynamic demand management, which is designed to assist management of the network and thus security of supply. This could involve direct supplier or distribution company interface with equipment, such as refrigerators, within a property, overriding the control of the householder.

The Information Commissioner's Office said it had already discussed the issue of smart meters with some suppliers, including Eon, Scottish Power and British Gas. A spokesman said the ICO would continue to maintain a close dialogue to ensure that their introduction does not compromise customers' privacy . He added: Important issues include what information is stored on the meters themselves, in particular whether information identifying the householder will be held. In any event energy companies will clearly need to hold records linking meters with householders and all the information must be held in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.