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Time for surveillance transparency

Today the three heads of Britain's intelligence agencies appear infront of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in a televised hearing, the first time for such a hearing to be broadcast. Progress, yes, but let's not get ahead of ourselves - the head of the CIA first appeared on TV speaking to congress in 1975, so it's hardly a revolution in oversight. Today we have published new polling by

GCHQ faces legal action over mass surveillance

Today Big Brother Watch, working with the Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet activist Constanze Kurz, has announced legal papers have been filed alleging that GCHQ has illegally intruded on the privacy of millions of British and European citizens. We allege that by collecting vast amounts of data leaving or entering the UK, including the content of emails and social media messages, the UK’s spy

Patients win choice of sharing medical records

Earlier this year, we led the concern that a new NHS data sharing plan would see every patient's medical records uploaded to a new information system without the right to opt-out. We warned at the time that patient records would be out of patient control. On Friday, the Secretary of State confirmed that this will not be the case. We have worked closely with MedConfidential and Privacy International to ensure

Boom in private investigators risks avoiding surveillance regulation

Our latest report highlights the growing use of private investigators by local and public authorities, particularly the number of times they are used without RIPA authorisation. The law in the UK, particularly the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, is broadly drawn to allow evidence to be introduced in court that in other jurisdictions would not be deemed admissible. Contrasted with the fruit of the poisonous

Child protection

Kids and the cloud – who is protecting their privacy?

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Child protection, Information Commissioner, Online privacy | 2 Comments

serversNew research for the Ponemon Institute for SafeGov.org highlights some critical issues in the increasing use of cloud-based services to store and process the confidential personal information of people using public services.

On the one hand, schools are not immune from the need to modernise how they operate and reduce costs. According to the research, a strong majority of schools expect to deploy cloud email and document services in the foreseeable future. The data shows that the ease of administering the system and lower costs are key drivers to move to cloud, while just 11% of respondents say the move will help protect student privacy. One in four already use cloud email for students and one in five do so for staff.

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“Undignified” practice of child strip searches still taking place

Posted on by Emma Carr Posted in Child protection, Ministry of Justice, Privacy | 8 Comments

school_corridorUnbelievably, tens of thousands of children, as young as 12, are still being subjected to the “undignified” practice of strip searches, despite reassurances from the Youth Justice Board.

Results from an FOI request found that there had been 43,000 recorded incidents of children being strip searched in young offender institutions, secure children’s homes and secure training centers in the 21 months up to December 2012, with only 275 searches finding “illicit” items. When items were found, the most common was tobacco and on no occasions were discoveries of drugs or knives recorded; hardly life or death situations. In 99.4% of searches nothing was found.

The humiliating and intrusive practice should only be used in a limited amount of serious cases against adults, never mind children. The regulation of these intrusive and disproportionate powers is far too weak and urgently needs to be properly addressed. Why are so many searches being conducted and yet so few finding anything? Is this yet another area where powers are being used frequently without suspicion?

Teaching kids they have no privacy?

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Child protection, Civil Liberties, Mobile Phones, Privacy, Surveillance, Technology | 8 Comments

Today’s Daily Mail carries a suitably sensational story courtesy of the Government’s new advisor on childhood. iStock_000017522162Small

According to the piece, “Claire Perry said that in a world where youngsters are surrounded by online dangers, parents should challenge the ‘bizarre’ idea that their children have the right to keep their messages private.” In other words (as the paper’s headline suggests) if you’re a parent, you should “Snoop on your child’s texts”.

We’re not entirely sure how a Conservative MP and a newspaper usually committed to reducing state interference in our lives are able to square away issuing parenting diktats, but more concerning is the total lack of any evidence to support these claims.

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More dodgy stats misleading the child protection debate

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Child protection, Civil Liberties, Mobile Phones, Surveillance, Technology | 2 Comments

Last month we detailed how one of the key statistics being relied upon by campaigners calling for ‘default blocking’ of some internet content was based upon one very dubious survey in a single school.

This kind of deliberately misleading scaremongering undermines the discussion about how best to protect children, and now it’s clear that commercial pressures are also leading to dodgy stats being pushed into the debate.

This week, the Advertising Standards Authority has rebuked Carphone Warehouse for it’s marketing of a service we’ve previously been very critical of, Bemilo. The service hit the headlines for it’s feature that allowed parents to read the text messages of children, prompted by our warning that parenting is not spying.

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