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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

European Arrest Warrant

Parliament to vote on the European Arrest Warrant

Posted on by Dan Nesbitt Posted in Europe, European Arrest Warrant, Extradition | 2 Comments

EThis afternoon MPs will take part in a vital debate, the main point of which is to decide whether or not Britain should opt back into the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Big Brother Watch has been clear in the past that the EAW risks seeing UK citizens extradited for minor crimes and in some instances forced to spend months in detention before their case even comes to trial.

In an article for ConservativeHome Mark Field MP, a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee argues that the EAW is vital for tackling serious international crime, such as terrorism and large scale fraud. Whilst the measure was introduced in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, as part of the EU’s attempts to combat international terrorism and cross-border crime, there has been a significant shift in its focus in the intervening years.

The original aims of the EAW are certainly laudable, but it has been subject to severe mission creep since 2002. This has led to a situation whereby warrants have been sent to the UK for the extradition of a man guilty of stealing a wheelbarrow and some tools or another who had committed the crime of piglet rustling. The number of frivolous requests and the resulting administrative burden this has created is clearly shown by a report by the European Parliamentary Research Service: in 2011  the UK received 6760 EAWs, of these 5761 were not executed.

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What could possibly go wrong with an EU-wide DNA database?

Posted on by Emma Carr Posted in Databases, DNA database, Europe, European Arrest Warrant, Extradition | 3 Comments

dna-3Over the weekend you may have read about the Government’s plans for more policing powers to be transferred over to the EU, including the prospect of the UK joining a Europe-wide DNA database. Considering a debate is planned for Thursday on the current set of Justice and Home Affairs opt-outs, these plans seem absurdly premature.

You can read our briefing note on the reported plans and our concerns about the problems with the current system here.

There are some fundamental problems with the UK’s DNA database (DNAD) that need urgently addressing before the Government even thinks about allowing EU Member States to have direct access to the data. These problems are outlined in our 2012 report (pdf), which was published following the reforms made by the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

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The Prum Treaty: a disaster waiting to happen’?

Posted on by Emma Carr Posted in Civil Liberties, DNA database, Europe, European Arrest Warrant, Home, International | 3 Comments

dna-3The Prüm Treaty may yet be implemented in the UK as a report shows that the European Commission plans to force the UK to allow other member states access to personal details of every motorist in Britain as well as access to the national DNA database and fingerprint records.

The Home Secretary has indicated that she is minded to opt out of the European Home Affairs Injustice measures in 2014, a step that would enable a full and frank discussion on how to sufficiently protect the rights of UK citizens. We can now hope that the Home Secretary will share the same robustness towards the European Commission on this matter.

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Conor Burns MP: Reforming the European Arrest Warrant

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Civil Liberties, Europe, European Arrest Warrant, Research and reports | 1 Comment

Today Big Brother Watch is delighted to publish a paper authored by Conor Burns MP on the European Arrest Warrant.

The paper calls on the Government to urgently review the European Arrest Warrant system, warning that the current operation of the warrants is “fundamentally incompatible” with the principles of British justice. To protect the ‘interests, rights and liberties of British citizens’ Conor argues reform of the arrest warrant system is essential.

It is not unreasonable to ask that British citizens should not be extradited for offences that either trivial or not recognised as crimes in the UK, while being sure that they will not face prolonged uncertainty in a foreign jail before a decision to charge is even made.

At present a warrant can be issued by any member state of the EU, with the receiving country not able to challenge the warrant’s basis or to demand evidence be provided to substantiate the allegations being made. This leads to a serious risk that individuals are held without charge while investigations are conducted, in some cases for many months. Furthermore, the report argues that British citizens should be able to choose to be tried in a UK court, rather than be extradited to less judicially-rigorous nations.

The system is in dire need of reform to protect the civil liberties of British citizens and the longer the Government waits, the greater the risk of yet another tragic case arising. With MPs from every party agreeing the system is not working, delay is inexcusable.

Lord Baker’s 488 pages cannot hide his fundamental failure on civil liberties

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Europe, European Arrest Warrant, International | 1 Comment

Lord Baker’s review into UK Extradition Law – all 488 pages of it – has been published today. A major section of the report deals with the working of the European Arrest Warrant, which Big Brother Watch held a fringe meeting on at Conservative conference.

Before the election, Dominic Grieve summed up the situation well. He said: “Our extradition laws are a mess. They’re one-sided. A Conservative government will re-write them.” Nick Clegg was in agreement on the failures of the UK/US Extradition treaty, adding: “I forced a debate on it…and warned the Government then that the treaty would lead to an abuse of people’s rights in this country.”

Nick de Bois MP, who spoke at our fringe event, yesterday outlined what he would like the review to say on the European Arrest Warrant. His view shares the concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, who reported in July this year on the need for reform.

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