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
More than a year ago, we learned that the Home Office was resurrecting it's plan to monitor every British citizens' internet use.
Big Brother Watch led the charge against these plans, giving evidence to Parliament, urging our supporters to write to their MPs and being the central force in the media campaign against the so called Snoopers Charter. We highlighted how the Home Office had misrepresented the work of
Three weeks today, Sergeant Danny Nightingale will report to the Military Court Centre in Bulford, Wiltshire for a preparatory hearing. This is as a result of the Service Prosecuting Authority exercising its right to seek a re-trial of Sgt Nightingale.
Like many people, Big Brother Watch has been dismayed at the treatment of Sgt Nightingale. Despite his conviction being quashed at the Court of Appeal,
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
Theresa May's speech in the House of Commons yesterday is full of important stuff and we'll be discussing different aspects of it, and the governmental agenda they imply, in the days and weeks to come. But one point I'm delighted to begin with is the discussion of the absurd treatment of photographers under current anti-terror laws. Prompted by the excellent Tracey Crouch, Mrs May gave the following assurance:
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con): Under the previous Government, a photographer from Medway was arrested in Chatham high street under section 44 stop-and-search powers, and he and fellow photographers from Medway will welcome today's announcement from the Home Secretary. Will she assure the House that any future revision of anti-terror legislation will strike the right balance between protecting the public and safeguarding the rights of individuals?
Mrs May: I am happy to give that assurance to my hon. Friend. She may have noticed that in my statement I specifically said that we would look at the issue of photographers and stop-and-search powers. It is one issue that has been brought home forcibly to me. I have had constituency cases of people who have been stopped under those powers and been concerned about it, and I have received a number of representations from Members of this House, and indeed of another place, about those problems.
We have covered this issue several times previously and discussed the disgraceful nature of this specific example on TV – it's great to see it raised in Parliament and to hear the Home Secretary give such specific assurances. All photographers should take note of this important change in the direction of government towards their pursuit, and we will now await the no doubt promptly forthcoming new guidance for the police to that effect with great interest.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has found Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to be in breach of the Data Protection Act (DPA):
Two unencrypted laptops containing personal information relating to 17 patients were stolen from the Medical Day Centre.The laptops contained sensitive personal data such as patient diagnoses, video recordings and information on the health of the individual patients.
Noting that this same hospital lost its Chief Executive last year in a bout of unrelated incompetence, and putting aside one's idle curiosity about what on earth the videos were for, this plainly reveals woeful protocols for the protection of privacy. With admirable understatement, Mick Gorrill, Head of Enforcement at the ICO, said:
”It is unacceptable
to leave portable devices containing personal information unencrypted.
The fact that these laptops contained sensitive personal data highlights
the gravity of the case.".
And in a tremendous barn-door-post-horse-bolting step,
The Trust has agreed to sign a formal Undertaking outlining that it will now process personal information in line with the Data Protection Act. The Trust will implement a number of security measures to protect personal information more effectively. These include ensuring that the removal of encryption software against the Trust’s security policies is prevented, all portable devices such as laptops and memory sticks used to store and transmit personal data are encrypted and that physical security measures are in place to prevent unauthorised access to personal information.
All of which any fool could have told them they needed before. Disappointing that they need to lose personal data on a bunch of poorly tots before realising it.
Our research has shown how badly privacy is protected under the status quo in the NHS, which this example only serves to underline – all good reasons not to pursue the intrusive and unsafe Summary Care Record scheme any further.
Over at the ICO, a press release that should send a shiver up the spine of any resident of the following areas (and probably the rest of us too, given the slack behaviour it suggests):
Over 9,000 child details put at risk by councils
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has taken action against the London Borough of Barnet, West Sussex County Council and Buckinghamshire County Council for breaching the Data Protection Act. A systemic lack of staff training on how to handle personal information has led to the loss of sensitive personal information relating to thousands of children.
Sally-Anne Poole, Enforcement Group Manager at the ICO, said: “These three councils have shown a poor regard for the importance of protecting children’s personal information. It is essential that councils ensure the correct preventative safeguards are in place when storing and transferring personal information, especially when it concerns sensitive information relating to children. A lack of awareness and training in data protection requirements can lead to personal information falling into the wrong hands.”
A theft from the home of an employee of the London Borough of Barnet was reported by the council. An unencrypted, non-password protected USB stick and CDs containing the sensitive personal information of over 9,000 children and members of their families were taken. An employee had downloaded the data onto the unencrypted devices without any authorisation to do so, although it was later revealed that there was no training provided or security in place to prevent such downloads. The ICO had conducted an audit of the London Borough of Barnet prior to this incident that had also highlighted this lack of staff training.
West Sussex County Council had a laptop stolen, also from the home of an employee, which contained sensitive personal data relating to an unknown number of children and families involved in childcare proceedings. The laptop was unencrypted and enquiries by the ICO revealed that the employee had not received any formal data protection/IT security training. It was also discovered that over 2,300 unencrypted laptops were likely to be still in use across the council’s various services, although steps are now being taken to encrypt these.
Buckinghamshire County Council provided a report regarding the loss, at Heathrow Airport, of documents containing sensitive personal data relating to two children. The documents were in a plastic wallet belonging to a council social work employee who was travelling to another UK city in connection with the children’s social care case. After further analysis by the ICO, it was apparent that no real thought had been given to the security of this personal data during travel. It was also revealed that some of the council’s policies needed revision and that staff training in data protection was insufficient.
The ICO has found all three councils in breach of the DPA.
This is extremely worrying. Children are entitled to privacy just like adults: these authorities have had scant regard for the safety of their private information.
Whilst I applaud the ICO for naming and shaming the councils, to get real change in the culture of contempt for privacy on show here the Commissioner should be able to order or recommend dismissal of individual personnel.
This is the data loss we know about. Residents with children must be wondering – What else has been lost by these councils?
Remember of course that national government is just as bad as local government – in 2006 the DWP lost the entire child benefit database, containing the very private details of some 25 million people.
This week a policy first announced
by then Shadow Justice Secretary, Dominic Grieve, at the joint CPS/Big
Brother Watch event ‘An Unwarranted Intrusion’, finally came to fruition.
The Freedom Bill – as it is being called – hit the headlines this week with
Nick Clegg launching the ‘Your Freedom’ website on Wednesday, imploring the
British public to submit their own ideas for laws to repeal. Big Brother Watch
has set out our top
10 here – all of which are taken from our election
do add your own suggestions in the comments
section on the blog and go to the ‘Your
Freedom’ site (when it’s not running at a snail’s pace!) and submit them to
the Government. It will be very interesting to watch how the Coalition responds
to the ideas on this site, which ones they use and which ones they refuse could
define the course of this Government.
Section 44 and amateur photography
After the Freedom Bill, undoubtedly the biggest privacy
story of the week comes courtesy of a young photographer in Romford. Jules
Mattsson was taking photos of cadets on Armed Forces day when police officers
walked over and tried to stop him. Jules cannily recorded the entire incident
and it is a truly shocking piece of footage – click
here to read more and watch.
ironically, the following day the previous Government’s appeal against the ECHR
ruling that said Section 44 was illegal, failed.
The Coalition has pledged that random stop and search will be included in a
general review of terror legislation, but that simply isn’t good enough. There
has never been a successful prosecution for terror offences resulting from a
section 44 stop and search. This power simply doesn’t work and should be
Two events for your diary
First up: Forest, The Free Society and Free Spirits present
‘Smoke on the Water’ a reception and riverboat party in central London on
Wednesday July 14, 7.15-9.45pm. Admission is free and there will be a drinks
reception followed by cash bar.
Embarkation from 7.15pm Boat leaves Westminster pier, 8.15pm Returns to Festival Pier, 9.45pm
Secondly: Big Brother Watch, Privacy International, Google
and SpikedOnline present an evening on Google and privacy. The event will be
held at our central London offices on Tuesday 20th July, 5.30 for 6pm.
The event will focus on Google StreetView and the privacy
implications but to get a flavour of the debate, head over to SpikedOnline
and read what Simon Davies of Privacy International has been saying.
Blogs of the Week
ban on ‘mosquitoes’? – the Council of Europe rules that the devices used to
emit high-pitched noise heard only by children should be banned. As
indiscriminate as they are offensive, the new Government ignores
The use of credit
agencies by the public sector was condemned last night by the pressure group
Big Brother Watch.
Alex Deane, its director,
said: “Nobody approves of benefit cheats. But mining private data on a
routine basis on the off-chance of catching people out is a disproportionate invasion
of privacy. Credit agencies should think carefully about effectively becoming
enforcers for the state, compromising private information about people.”
Alex Deane, director of
Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, told Amateur Photographer:
‘Some officers think that anti-terror legislation gives them blanket powers to
hassle people whenever they want. This case is a very bad example of that.’
Privacy groups have
already blasted Street View, which they branded a ‘burglar’s charter’ when it
was launched last year.
Alex Deane, from the Big
Brother Watch group, said: “This is not the first time this has happened and
the excuses are wearing thin. Google still needs to take greater responsibility
for people’s personal privacy and introduce stronger safeguards to the system.”
This week, like many of you, Big
Brother Watch has been digesting the aftermath of the new Government’s
austerity budget. As we wrote
on Monday, the Chancellor could have made a number of savings by simply
curbing our overbearing state. Although the end of the ID card system is
welcome and has saved the economy several million pounds, there was no mention
made of either ContactPoint or the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) – the
nationwide database of our medical records. In fact, it now
sadly appears that the Summary Care Record (SCR) is set to stay – albeit in
a slightly modified format.
We will be looking out for any information on what form the
new SCR will take, but the fact that the existing infrastructure remains is a
cause for concern. The most important facet of any new system is that we are
given clear guidance on how to opt out. It remains to be seen if this will be
Google to answer questions over
their WiFi shenanigans
This week it has
been reported that Google are to be investigated by the Metropolitan Police
over their illegal/accidental (delete
as appropriate) collection of unprotected WiFi data. The contents
of this data, collected when their naughty StreetView cars trawled the country,
putting it on camera, is still not known.
A debate on this will take place at spiked online
from Monday 28 June onwards, with initial contributions from Google and Simon
Davies of Privacy International.
Do check it out!
Fort Knox Nurseries
- Asquith, the owners of Bolton Day Nursery, respond to a parent focus group
that prioritised safety, by making entry to their buildings tighter than
NICE – the Government’s so-called
health watchdog pulls another corker by suggesting that unhealthy food is bad
for us and needs to be tackled. The Ministry of Silly Walks has nothing on
BBC Radio 4 – Alex
Deane interviewed by Joshua Rozenberg about the retention of DNA samples from
innocent people, and the work Big Brother Watch has done to assist a supporter,
on “Law in Action”: listen here
Council bosses have
defended the use of special laws to spy on residents – claiming they wanted to
catch nuisance neighbours. Big Brother Watch figures show that Castle Point
Council has used powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to
monitor residents 40 times in two years – 22 in 2008/09 and 18 in 2009/10.
Campaign group Big
Brother Watch urged the Government to withdraw the cameras. Alex Deane,
director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Talking CCTV must be included in the
regulation promised by the coalition: indeed, it should be stopped. These
systems are bullying and intrusive, lecturing people for petty offences rather
than catching real criminals.”
Dylan Sharpe, campaign
director of the anti-CCTV group Big Brother Watch, said: “Coventry has set a
very dangerous precedent with this scheme. There can be no justification for
giving councils or the police the capability to listen in on our private
Sharpe added: “Coming so
soon after their near-neighbours Birmingham were reprimanded for placing a
disproportionate number of CCTV cameras in a Muslim area, Coventry should
realise that this sort of intrusive and overbearing surveillance is completely
LBC 97.3FM – Dylan Sharpe
interviewed by James Max on listening CCTV
An Aberdeenshire Council
spokeswoman added: “A locator will only be given to someone following an
assessment of their need and a case conference involving the individual, their
family and a council case worker.”
But campaign group Big
Brother Watch has criticised the move as an example of “surveillance
This week, two of the most intrusive and opaque Government
systems in the UK have been the subject of excellent investigations that expose
the scale and underlying dangers of our surveillance state. The first was a
lengthy but excellent
review of the Summary Care Record system conducted by UCL, which revealed
that not only had millions of people had an electronic file of their medical
records created without their knowledge, but also that the data on the SCR is
often inaccurate and mistrusted by medical staff. In our
response to the UCL report, we warned that there were “serious and
potentially irrevocable tensions” in the NHS IT system that “pose a
real danger to patients.”
second piece of research came from a freedom
of information request and revealed that the National Policing Improvement
Agency have logged 7.6 billion journeys on the Automatic Numberplate
Recognition (ANPR) camera database. This dizzying figure shows that not only
are we being regularly
tracked in our cars, but also that the data is being retained without due
In both cases, the situation with regards to these enormous
databases is worse than originally thought. In both cases the new Government
has made encouraging noises but shown very little action. These latest
revelations help build pressure on these intrusive schemes, but Big Brother
Watch will continue to push for greater transparency and greater privacy.
Keeping track of body scanners
this week, there are just three days left to submit a response to the
Government’s consultation on airport full body scanners. We have written our
submission (available to read
here), but we encourage anyone who feels these scanners are excessive,
intrusive and expensive to do the same.
Dylan Sharpe, campaign
director of Big Brother Watch, said the money would have been better spent on
putting policemen on the streets.
‘This fiasco is sadly
representative of Britain’s surveillance state,’ he said. ‘The authorities in
Birmingham have placed an enormous number of cameras in a very small area,
failed to ask local councillors and residents if they actually wanted this
surveillance, and wasted £3 million of taxpayers’ money in the process.
But Alex Deane, director
of the UK’s Big Brother Watch, said: “This is potentially a very serious
infringement of drivers’ privacy and rights in Kendal.
“There’s no way to
guarantee that the data will be kept securely once it’s given. People get
sucked in to these schemes because they’re convenient, and then find their
private data is being used for purposes they’d never even dreamed of.”
campaigners welcomed the news. Dylan Sharpe, the Campaign Director for Big
Brother Watch, said: “While the new Government’s tackling of vetting and
barring is welcome, this cannot be just a temporary halt.
“The scheme is an
unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that is doing serious harm to the relationship
between children and adults.’’ Mr Sharpe added: “A review is not a solution –
the vetting and barring scheme should be scrapped.’’
This week Big Brother Watch was dismayed to learn that the
Coalition Government is to continue
uploading patient medical records onto the Summary Care Record (SCR)
system. This u-turn from both the
Conservatives and Liberal
Democrats on patient privacy was revealed in an answer given by the junior
health minister in Parliament last week at the height of the tragedy in Cumbria
- providing further evidence that this was one policy announcement the new
Government didn’t want us to hear.
NO2ID and Privacy International, Big Brother Watch are in the process of setting
up a campaign against the continuation of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT)
- more details of which we will announce shortly.We won’t outline the full argument
against the SCR here again – but please do read this
blogpost and our medical
records report for more information. Needless to say, if you have been
contacted by the NHS regarding the SCR, we recommend you take the opportunity
to opt out; equally, if you have a meeting with your doctor in the near future,
you can ask if he or she supports the SCR.
The Government has failed to protect our medical privacy,
but your doctor can still prevent the scheme being rolled out in your area. Our
hope is that GPs can see off this expensive, intrusive and cumbersome scheme.
A call for the end of Section 44
stop and search authorisations
As our new government provides its
first taste of disappointment, we also received a timely reminder of what
things used to be like. On Thursday the
Home Office has revealed that between 2001 and 2008, potentially thousands
of completely innocent people were illegally stopped and searched by police
forces across the country. These embarrassing and unnecessary searches
(remember: there has never been a successful conviction for terrorism resulting
from a section 44 stop and search) are a disgraceful relic of the previous
There can be no fudge: if the Coalition Government is
serious about protecting privacy it must halt the use of Section 44
Voices of Freedom
Many thanks to all who came to watch the ‘Big Government is
Watching You’ debate yesterday. It was a great success and provoked some very
interesting discussions. This was the second debate in a series called ‘Voices
of Freedom – The Battle Against Big Government’:
Tuesday 15th June – Can a big society be a free society? Power or persuasion: what’s the big
Thursday 24th June – Hyper-regulation and the bully state. Bad laws that threaten individual
Tuesday 29th June – Who hold the liberal torch in 2010? Libertarians, Lib Dems or the ‘liberal
Each event is held at the Institute for Economic Affairs in
Westminster and opens at 6pm for drinks, with the debate starting at 7pm. If
you would like to attend RSVP to:
Dylan Sharpe, campaign
director of Big Brother Watch said: “This proposal is completely barking mad –
only a local authority would even think of fining people £1,000 because of the
length of their dog lead.
“This is just the latest
in a steady stream of potty policies that try to criminalise and fine innocent
Alex Deane, director of
campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The use of fingerprinting in schools
is disproportionate and intrusive – in some cases, parents aren’t even asked
whether they agree with it.
‘Schools are not equipped
to hold this sort of unique and personal data. By taking it for trivial
purposes schools are jeopardising the privacy of the students for the rest of
Alex Deane, the director
of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “The environment and
‘user rewards’ are being used as twin stalking horses for eventual
pay-as-you-throw schemes by the back door.”
Alex Deane, director of
Big Brother Watch, said “This is a disgraceful U-turn. The coalition
wants us to believe that they are serious about privacy and civil liberties –
this is their first test, and they have failed it.”
Alex Deane, director of
civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Bin taxes symbolise
the worst of our Big Brother state, snooping on our private waste and charging
us for the privilege. The sooner these punitive and vindictive taxes are
scrapped the better.”
The cool kids over at World of Warcraft are up in arms. And I don't mean against the orcs, I mean against the admins – who are removing anonymity on one of the discussion boards of the world's most popular gaming forums.
IT worker Nigel Roberts climbed aboard the South West Trains service to London at Southampton last week, to find that the carriage was heaving with passengers, luggage was strewn across the aisles and doorways were jammed.
Shocked by the appalling conditions and obvious safety risks, Nigel decided to take a photo on his mobile phone and show it to the ticket inspector. What happened next is so ridiculous it verges on farce:
An eagle-eyed supporter (many thanks to AG) has sent us a very interesting page on the Avon and Somerset Constabulary website, promoting the dubious 'success' of their drink drive campaign:
More than 140 people have been arrested during Avon and Somerset Police's summer drink drive campaign.
Operation Tonic has seen officers carry out almost 30,000 stop checks throughout the month of June, and breathalysed almost 2,000 motorists.
141 arrested from 30,000 – or 0.47% of those stopped – is a disgraceful return. Just like Section 44, the overwhelming feeling we get is that thousands of people have had their journeys interrupted because the police needed to hit a target – we are little more than a statistic.
Now, of course we are not condoning drink driving. But I think it is fair enough to say that if people are drunk at the wheel, they will tend to give off a number of key warning signs. Equally, it is not unreasonable to imagine that a good proportion of those stopped for drink driving come from tip-offs, either from bar owners or responsible friends or family.
Big Brother Watch would like to see a change in the culture from random searching to reach predefined figures; to properly targeted operations aimed at making the roads safer. Is that too much to ask?