2014 has been an incredible year for Big Brother Watch, with the team being busier than ever before. The aftermath of the Snowden revelations, surveillance legislation being pushed through Parliament in mere days, and landmark EU rulings on data retention, are just a few of the issues we have encountered this year that have highlighted why the work that Big Brother Watch does is more important than ever.
As we near our 5th anniversary it has been very exciting to see the team evolve and grow, with Emma Carr being promoted to the role of Director, Dan Nesbitt being promoted to Research Director and Renate Samson joining the team as Chief Executive.
2014 has also been a fantastic year for the organisation’s ever-expanding media profile, with the team appearing in the national press 285 times — including 8 front pages — and in regional press 837 times, as well as featuring on national TV and radio on a combined total of 67 occasions. Not bad for a small team of 3 people!
Our research has also been far-reaching, resonating with both the public and private sectors and prompting a great deal of coverage, not only in the press but also in Parliament. The misuse of power at a police level was investigated in our report “Off the Record: How the police use surveillance powers”, which exposed the true frequency with which controversial RIPA-enabled powers are used. “Traffic Spies: A 300m surveillance industry” detailed the expansion of local councils mobile CCTV programs which have raised some £312 million nationwide. This revealing work led the Department for Communities and Local Government to ban the use of CCTV ‘spy cars’ in issuing fines.
We also published our “Biometrics in Schools” report which revealed that more than one million pupils were fingerprinted in 2012-13, whilst “NHS Data Breaches” demonstrated the inability of current Data Protection law to protect the most personal information that authorities hold. Far from improving since our similar report covering 2008-2011, the number of breaches suggests that the situation has worsened considerably.
2014 also saw more policy briefings being produced than ever before, with topics including RIPA, DRIPA, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, the ‘capability gap’, communications data, the e-call system, body worn cameras and surveillance transparency.
Big Brother Watch has also been called to give evidence to Parliament on 5 occasions this year — with contributions being given to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Health Select Committee, Science and Technology Committee (x2) and the Intelligence and Security Committee. 2014 has also seen the team speak at a number of universities and events, including debating at the Cambridge Union, giving evidence to the Google advisory council, and speaking in the literary tent at Latitude festival on the topic of secrets, truth and freedom. We were also well represented at the political party conferences this year, with us speaking at the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference on a digital bill of rights and organising panels at the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Autumn Conferences on the topic of civil liberties in a digital age.
As we approach the end of the year, we are looking to 2015, which already looks to be the busiest and most exciting yet. With the new team in place, we are looking forward to celebrating the organisation’s 5th anniversary. We will also be continuing to publish unique and innovative research, with reports focusing on data breaches, CCTV, the Cloud and social media prosecutions.
Have a very Merry Christmas, a very happy New Year and thank you for your continued support of Big Brother Watch.