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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


Bin snooping? We’ve been here before

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Bins, Councils, Data Protection, Information Commissioner, Privacy, Surveillance, Technology | 13 Comments

A guest post by former Big Brother Watch director, Alex Deane.iStock_000005457815Medium

Longstanding BBW supporters may remember that I was once Director of this parish. For the past two years, I’ve been a Common Councilman in the City of London, aka the Square Mile. These two things crossed over significantly this week, with the news (broken by Quartz) that a company named Renew, which had installed bins in the Square Mile, was using a data collection capacity installed in those bins to collect information about mobile telephone usage amongst passers-by.

Let’s lance one canard right now: I don’t care what they were using this data for, or intending to use it for. You’ve got no right to snatch data from the airwaves like this, no matter what your ostensible motive and no matter how innocent your alleged plans. This behaviour is wrong in and of itself and it is a good thing that this case has resulted in controversy for those carrying it out and attention for the issue; all the better as it has happened early in the development of this technology – or at least, this latest iteration of it.

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Common sense returns for bin fines

Posted on by Emma Carr Posted in Bins, Civil Liberties, RIPA, Surveillance | Leave a comment

Untitled 28. Wheelie Bin - Auckland, 2011Communities Secretary Eric Pickles MP has announced that new legislation will be introduced this year which will scrap hefty fines for putting a bin out on the wrong day. Talking to the BBC Sunday Politics Pickles promised: ’Fines for putting a bin out on the wrong day would be scrapped. If you put the wrong yoghurt pot into the wrong bin, it is ludicrous to fine people.’

This is an issue that we have been keeping an eye on for several years. Lifting The Lid highlighted that 68 local authorities had been secretly putting microchips in residents’ bins. The research revealed that at least 2.6 million households have had their bins microchiped. Eric Pickles is absolutely right to take action to abolish these powers and to try to bring some sanity to the way councils seemingly view themselves as a police force free to pass absurd rules and dole out fines on a whim. Read more

Bin snooper powers of entry binned

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Bins, Civil Liberties, Councils, Privacy, Protection of Freedoms Bill, Surveillance | 6 Comments

Eric Pickles may not have the most glamorous job in Westminster, but he has delivered an early Christmas present for civil liberties campaigners.

The last Labour Government changed the law to give local authorities powers, originally intended for the Environment Agency to tackle serious fly-tipping, to go through people’s bins. Now the Secretary of State for Local Government has announced that no longer will council inspectors have the right to enter your property and rifle through your bin.

This power of entry, along with a few others (including the suspicion of unregulated hypnotists and the sale of German property) were scrapped as part of the Protection of Freedoms Act.

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The shouting lampost: coming to a street near you?

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Bins, CCTV, Privacy | 4 Comments

Thanks to the Big Brother Watch supporter who highlighted his local council’s latest toy – the shouting lamppost.

Shepway District Council installed the device to tackle fly-tipping by a set of industrial bins. Unlike a normal CCTV camera, the system takes the photo of every person who walks near the bins, and plays a loud message warning you not to fly tip and announcing that it is taking your picture.

Given that you don’t need to be in immediate physical proximity to the bins to trigger the system, the likelyhood is that photographs are being taken – and stored – of people who have committed no offence, other than using a public right of way.

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Dumping private details in the Bin-Oliver Letwin, Champion of Data Protection

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Bins, Data Protection, ID cards | 4 Comments

It has emerged that David Cameron’s Cabinet Office Minister has been casually dropping papers in litter bins around St. James’s Park nearby Number 10. Photographed on his mobile phone and shuffling through papers, Letwin is shown to dispose of documents in the bins on at least 5 occasions.  The documents, partly torn up before being dumped,  consisted of emails, memos, letters and papers – some of which contained constituents’ personal details.

A spokesperson for Mr. Lewtin stated that the documents were “not of a sensitive nature,” and that the minister sometimes disposes of copies of letters while walking to work in the morning.

As it is Government policy to shred documents rather than just placing them in the bin, we sincerely hope that he hasn’t breached basic security protocol by tossing these papers in the rubbish in a public park.  It is unclear whether the information Mr. Letwin disposed of actually was of a secure nature, however we are very disappointed with the lackadaisical treatment of constituents’ personal details.

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