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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

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Big Brother Watch Newsletter 08.01.10

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Dear Supporter,


 


A happy new year from all at Big Brother Watch and we hope that you all had an enjoyable Christmas. As you may have seen, Big Brother Watch was very busy over the festive period, releasing our second major report and being featured regularly throughout the media. We intend to begin 2010 in exactly the same way we finished 2009 – with regular blogposts on the major stories in liberty and privacy each day on our website; with more research projects planned, exposing the worst excesses of our big brother state; and, most importantly of all, more stories from our supporters that give us the opportunity to take the fight directly to those in power and abusing their positions.


 


We’d like to give our sincere thanks to all those who were generous enough to donate to Big Brother Watch over the Christmas period – your kindness massively helps our research and media efforts and we really appreciate it. If you want to donate, or just get in touch, all the details are available on our website http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/


 


 


An Estimated 20,000 Council Officers in Britain Are Able to Enter Private Property Without a Warrant



On Monday 28th December 2009, Big Brother Watch released our second major piece of research, Barging In, revealing that there are at least 14,793 officers in 73 per cent of local councils in Britain who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police escort.
 
Through Freedom of Information requests sent to every single local council in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Big Brother Watch arrived at a total figure for the number of environmental health technicians, anti-social behaviour officers, safety control inspectors and so on who, on 15th June 2009, if they so wished, could enter your private residence or place of work.
 
Top lines from the research (the full report including breakdown by local authority available here) include:

  • There are at least 14,793 officers in local councils nationwide who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police officer escort
  • That is equal to 47 officers in every local authority in Britain able to enter homes and workplaces
  • Given that 115 (27 per cent) local councils either refused to answer our FOI requests, or failed to answer in an acceptable manner, this figure could be much higher and indeed be as high as 20,000 council officers in Britain
  • Northamptonshire County Council and Glasgow City Council have the most officers able to enter your home with almost 500 each

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:


“Once, a man’s home was his castle. Today the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes. Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers within their council for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse. There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.” 


Barging In generated some excellent media coverage in both the local and national news, and re-opened the debate on how much power we are comfortable with our local councils holding. As with Big Brother Is Watching our report into the growth of CCTV cameras in local authorities – we intend to conduct a yearly audit of councils and their uses of powers of entry. The full report, with full regional breakdown, is available to view by clicking here, so why not see how your own council fares?


 



Help us reinstate Albert


Yesterday on our website, we covered the story of Albert Stewart - the binman taken off his round of 34 years because he started picking up the rubbish residents had left beside their wheelie bins.


As we said in our piece, this is a sad indictment of Britain in 2010: A man who has committed no real offence, used his commonsense, done a little favour for families, and has actually helped foster a nicer environment in his area, is punished because the council has enforced pointless, pathetic rules designed to hit the law-abiding citizen in the pocket.


We need your help to get Albert reinstated on his old route. If you, like us, are appalled by West Lancashire Council’s actions, we urge you to send an angry email with your support for Albert to Pat Burgess, the council Refuse and Recycling Manager: [email protected]. Or if you would prefer to call and register your complaint, the number is: 01695 577177 ext.5432.
 

Top blogs since the last newsletter 

Crimes caught on CCTV fall by 70 per cent
 - six months after admitting that one crime is solved for every thousand CCTV cameras, and less than a month after Big Brother Watch releases a report questioning the effectiveness of CCTV, the Metropolitan Police announce that the proportion of all crimes solved using CCTV in London has fallen from half in 2003/4 to one in seven in 2008/9 – the pressure mounts…


 


Want your children to have school dinners? Surrender their fingerprints - Andrea Leadsom, Tory PPC for South Northamptonshire, writes about her dismay at finding out that schools are trying to gather pupil’s fingerprints as a replacement for Library cards and lunch money


 


Drogba, Robinho, Tevez and others find themselves carded - a bad day on the pitch for non-EU footballers, and off the pitch for the rest of us, as the ID card scheme takes another step towards implementation


 


 


A selection of our media coverage


 


Daily Telegraph – Number of crimes caught on CCTV falls by 70 per cent, Metropolitan Police admits



Evening Standard –
Huge drop in crimes solved by costly CCTV


Alexander Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s right to say that the experiment with CCTV has failed. They can’t have it both ways. Either the figures reflect a fall or they were wrong in the first place. Crimes that might have been solved by conventional methods go unsolved as a result.”


Daily Mail – The 20,000 snooper army: Vast number of town hall bureaucrats get power to enter your home without a warrant


Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the research, said: ‘Once, a man’s home was his castle. Today, the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes.


‘Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse. There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.’


Daily Telegraph - 20,000 council workers can enter homes without a warrant


The Sun – The Snoop Troop


Daily Express – 20,000 state snoopers who can walk into your homes


Daily Express – Debate: Has Britain become a Big Brother State?


South London Press – Wandsworth tops table of most CCTV cameras


Ipswich Evening Star – Councils ‘selling names and addresses’

Daily Telegraph – Police officers ‘prefer warmth of police station to catching criminals’ 


Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, said: “There is a culture of laziness among many of today’s police. There is a common belief that police would rather chase targets than criminals.”


The Portsmouth News – You’re being watched…but do we really need 1,400 cameras?



Eastern Daily Press – We’re not a Big Brother state – claim

Southern Daily Echo – Southampton council accused over CCTV count


Lincolnshire Echo – Pressure group says CCTV violates rights


A full list of our media coverage for this month is available in our media archive here.

Outraged by Albert’s removal from his round? Contact the council and tell them what you think

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Yesterday, Dylan wrote about the disgraceful way binman Albert Stewart has been treated by Ormskirk Council – moved from his route for picking up rubbish left beside bins, i.e. exercising a bit of common sense and doing his job well.

I've just written to the relevant Council Officer to express my displeasure, and I thought that you might wish to do so too:

Pat Burgess
Refuse and Recycling Manager
Tel: 01695 577177 ext.5432

[email protected]

By Alex Deane

**UPDATE**

The council has neglected to reply to my complaint, but is responding to that of others.  Supporters have kindly sent Big Brother Watch the council response, which is this:

Thank you for your concern. As you will appreciate,  I  am unable to speak about a private matter between the Council and one of its staff.  However, please do not believe what you read in the papers as Mr Stewart has not been sacked nor has he had any alterations made to his terms and conditions of employment. 

Hmm.  From conversations with people in the area, Big Brother Watch understands that what they did was punish him by stopping him from being on his route and allocating him willy-nilly on a day-by-day basis so he never knows where he's going or what he'll be doing. Moving someone's place of work – taking them away from the place they've known and loved for 30 years, where people know you and call out to you as you pass by, your friends, as Mr Stewart said himself - how's that for changing your terms and conditions?

RIPA and local councils, redux

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Preston-CC As reported today over at the Lancashire Evening Post, RIPA laws are still being used by a Lancashire council to snoop on residents:

In the past year "static surveillance" including video was used five times by Preston Council to spy on families suspected of housing benefit fraud and to gain evidence of the "illegal dumping of waste" at a city supermarket.

We've written before about misuse of RIPA (when used to watch hedge trimming, for example) and it's great to see the LEP on the case.  Their story follows a Freedom of Information request they submitted after the Government announced plans last month to ban Town Halls from using intrusive techniques under RIPA for "trivial" offences such as school catchment area policing, "bin crimes" and dog fouling.

Local Liberal Democrat Councillor Bill Shannon, who has supported a motion calling on Preston Council to curb its use of this law, said:

"These powers are excessive and were brought in to counter terrorism.

"They should only be brought in for serious cases where the outcome is likely to lead to imprisonment and it seems none of these cases would result in terms of imprisonment. It surprises me."

Spot on.  I would also point out that those who are found to be innocent of all wrongdoing currently have no right to know that they were snooped on – if the subject (like the great Jenny Paton in Poole) finds out, it will often be by accident or by optional disclosure by the Council.  Big Brother Watch thinks that councils should have to tell you if you've been spied on when you've done nothing wrong.

Shannon also called on the council to release more information about when it is using the powers, adding: "We should know more and be able to say that these powers are only used in really serious cases." 

The LEP discovered that RIPA was authorised four times in 2009 by Preston Council to investigate possible housing benefit lasting eight days.  It was also used a further time for the entire month of June to monitor suspected fly-tipping at a Preston supermarket.

The LEP also reports that the five times RIPA was used by Preston last year

is a reduction on previous years. RIPA was used eight times in 2008, 26 times in 2007, on 34 occasions in 2006 and 23 times in 2005 – 96 times in the past five years.

RIPA powers were brought in nine years ago to help police combat serious crime and terrorism, but have been used by a range of public bodies to carry out more minor surveillance work.

Councils across the country have used the legislation nearly 10,000 times to carry out a range of spying.

Apparently, an attempt to limit its use at Preston Council was voted out by councillors in August 2008.  Whilst applauding those decent councillors who made that attempt, and lamenting the attitude of the majority who rejected it, Big Brother Watch would advise local councils to limit their use of RIPA powers in the face of clear public will on this issue – and urge voters to punish those who fail to do so.

By Alex Deane

Tired of watching homeowners, the council starts spying on its binmen

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As reported by the Ormskirk Advertiser today:

A binman from Ormskirk says he has been taken off his round of 34 years as ‘punishment’ for taking waste left at the side of wheelie bins. Albert Stewart, 60, of Scarisbrick Street, works as a refuse collector for West Lancashire Borough Council.

He told the Advertiser: “I have done the same round in Aughton for over 30 years, and just because I took some side waste, I’m being punished – they’ve taken me off my round.

“They weren’t just people I took rubbish from – they were my friends too.”

Wheelie_bin Of course, according to West Lancashire Borough Council, binmen should only empty wheelie bins and must leave other rubbish dumped beside the bins behind. Therefore, Albert has committed a heinous violation.

And why, might we ask, do they enforce this law? Well, householders caught leaving rubbish outside wheelie bins can be fined an initial Fixed-Penalty Notice of £100, which if they refuse to pay can go up as high as £1,000.

This case is a sad indictment of Britain as we enter a new decade. A man who has committed no real offence, used his commonsense, done a little favour for families, and has actually helped foster a nicer environment in his area, is punished because the council has enforced pointless, pathetic rules designed to hit the law-abiding citizen in the pocket.

The state needs to take its nose out of our bins and its hands out of our pockets.

Big Brother Watch also wants to see the council reinstate Albert to his usual route as soon as possible.

By Dylan Sharpe 

Big Brother Watch Newsletter 18.12.09

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Dear Supporter,

Merry Christmas from Big Brother Watch. Today we have released our first major report, Big Brother Is Watching (available for download in full at http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/cctvreport.pdf). Through Freedom of Information requests sent to every single local council in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Big Brother Watch has found that there are at least 59,753 CCTV cameras controlled by local councils in the UK – three times more than ten years ago.
 

The release of our report has prompted a number of people to get in touch and tell us their own local authority CCTV horror stories. We are developing some of these further and we hope to keep the debate about CCTV in the mainstream with these stories. As ever, if you hear of any cases of CCTV, or general Big Brother intrusion, please do contact us.



 


Local Council Controlled CCTV Cameras Treble in 10 Years


 


The Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera has become a ubiquitous feature on Britain’s streets. The most frequently quoted figure for the number of CCTV cameras in the UK (c.4 million) is based on a loose estimate generated by a walk taken down a single street over a decade ago. Whilst impossible to count the precise number of privately owned CCTV cameras, Big Brother Is Watching is the first report to bring together the various arguments against CCTV and place them alongside a definitive list of the number of CCTV cameras operated by Britain’s 428 local authorities.

You can download a full copy of the report by clicking here. We have full breakdowns by local council, so why not go on and see how your own local authority is performing?
 

As well as the lists of the number of CCTV cameras controlled, we also outline why CCTV requires more scrutiny under five broad categories:



1. CCTV has been viewed by those controlling expenditure as a cheap alternative to conventional policing, with no demonstrable equivalent success in reducing crime.


2. The efficacy of CCTV is open to challenge, with cameras regularly turned off, footage being deleted before it can be used and pictures of insufficient quality for court purposes.


3. Local authorities have spent an unprecedented amount of money to make the United Kingdom the most watched nation of people anywhere in the world. That amount of spending on CCTV is steadily increasing, with funds being diverted from conventional policing budgets to pay for the new technology.


4. CCTV serves as a placebo for many local authorities designed to appease neighbourhoods suffering from anti-social behaviour problems.



5. As the number of CCTV cameras increases, so does the potential number of people being watched and the number of council officers watching – with implications for personal privacy and data security (on which, take a look at this photograph taken by a supporter – a camera in Wandsworth pointing straight into somebody’s home).



Notwithstanding all of the expenditure on surveillance in our country to date, another wave of CCTV spending is now taking place despite the straitened economic climate. This is therefore an important time to debate these issues. Big Brother Watch intends to produce Big Brother Is Watching yearly to keep an annual check on the proliferation of CCTV cameras in the UK.



 


Blogs of the Week

Council of last week…Liverpool! – truly remarkable stuff from Liverpool City Council as they vote to oppose the introduction of ID cards in the city, saying that they will actively work with No2ID to educate their residents about the dangers of the Home Office behemoth



Once again, Wandsworth should be ashamed – on the day our CCTV report is released, a story breaks about a man who was fined after being caught on CCTV stopping for just 36 seconds. Who was he fined by? Wandsworth Council; who have the highest number of cameras in London with a whopping 1,113 and have the 8th highest number of cameras per head in the UK with over 4 for every 1000 residents

Private security groups move into frontline policing – an account of the worrying trend of private security firms taking over conventional policing. No checks and balances, no accountability, no guessing what happens next

 


Media Coverage


BBC News – Council CCTV cameras treble in 10 years


The number of council-operated CCTV cameras has nearly trebled in a decade, privacy campaigners say. There are now said to be 60,000 cameras run from town halls across the UK. Alex Deane, the director of Big Brother Watch, which carried out the survey, said: “The evidence for the ability of CCTV to deter or solve crimes is sketchy at best.”


The study, entitled Big Brother is Watching, found that 418 local authorities control 59,753 cameras. Ten years ago, a similar study found that the total was 21,000.  


The Times – Local councils ‘have trebled number of CCTV cameras in a decade’


Daily Mail – Council snoopers watch us on 60,000 CCTV cameras


Evening Standard – 8,000 CCTV cameras are watching you


Guardian – Britain’s wasteful mania for CCTV


Daily Mirror – 60,000 CCTV snoop cams


Daily Express – CCTV cameras ‘being used as cheap policing’


Daily Telegraph – CCTV cameras trebled in ten years


Sky News – ‘Big Brother’ Councils Treble CCTV Cameras


Southern Daily Echo – Full scale of council CCTV cameras in Hampshire revealed


Kettering Evening Telegraph – Growth of CCTV causes concerns


Express and Star – 1,500 CCTV cameras spying on our streets


The Herald – Fears CCTV cameras used as ‘cheap alternative’ to policing


Daily Mail – March of the wardens: Town hall ‘enforcers’ with police powers increase by a fifth in a year


Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch said: ‘This is little less than state-sanctioned vigilantism. It’s even worse than policing on the cheap, it’s policing without the checks and balances that we get with the actual police force.


‘Councils are completely unequipped to police the pretend policemen they are licensing. Even worse, the number of these officers is rising because councils want to send them out to collect the ludicrous fines for regulations we shouldn’t have imposed on us in the first place.’


Daily Express – Ed Balls to scale down Big Brother checks


Dylan Sharpe, campaign ­director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The Government has ­fostered an atmosphere in which children are taught not to trust adults and adults are afraid to be left with children.”


A full list of our media coverage for this week is available in our media archive here.

Public safety and public relations

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Public bodies always play a tricky game when it comes to balancing the need to educate the public about their services, with the desire to promote their own worth.

Police officer Our colleagues at the TaxPayer's Alliance have done several studies into the uses and abuses of communications budgets and PR within the public sector, invariably concluding that state bodies rarely miss an opportunity to proclaim their own successes.

Nevertheless, the public ought to be able to expect to be told the truth by those who are paid through our taxes.

As reported by the Daily Mail this morning:

Police officers have been told to avoid talking about crime to members of the public – after Home Office chiefs found it 'upsets them', it can be revealed today.

The report, called Improving Public Confidence in the Police Service, states that when officers highlight crime and anti-social behaviour problems at community meetings it can lead to 'feelings of fear' among the public.

One officer from Thames Valley Police, who did not want to be named, said the report sounded like a 'bad joke'. ‘What the hell do they expect us to talk about at a public meeting? The price of tea in China or how much a pint of milk costs?' he said.

Community meetings are an invaluable way of airing problems in an area and getting proper 'face-time' with the relevant council members and police officers who are charged with protecting the public in a certain area.

For a central government document to be advocating bare-faced lying in the interests of protecting reputation is both immoral and dangerous. 

If the police are going to start refusing to recognise issues of anti-social behaviour and crime in a community, what hope is there that they will actually solve them?

By Dylan Sharpe

Arrested for having a “domestic”

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I imagine everyone reading this has, at some point, had an argument with their partner.

People-shouting A toilet seat left up, an anniversary missed, a return to the marital home somewhat worse for wear; the reasons for a "domestic" are numerous and varied.

It begins with a shouting match but, if there's alcohol involved or late at night, a row can rapidly escalate into slammed doors and a night spent on the couch. 

In most cases a period of cooling off and a good night's sleep is enough to banish the bad feeling, and it's time to make up.

But in France, the Prime Minister Francois Fillon seems to think that there are wider consequences to be drawn from these arguments.

As reported by the Daily Telegraph:

Married couples could be arrested and charged for insulting each other under a new law in France banning 'psychological violence'.

It is expected to cover every kind of slur from repeated rude remarks about a partner's appearance, false allegations of infidelity and threats of physical violence.

The law would apply to husbands and wives, as well as cohabiting couples. Police are being urged to issue a caution in the first instance of a reported crime, but repeat offenders could face a fine, electronic tagging or jail.

Domestic violence is an abhorrent and truly awful crime, and those that commit acts of violence upon their partner deserve the maximum punishment befitting their actions. But a shouting match is not domestic violence - physical or psychological.

We have chosen to highlight this legislation from across the channel because it exemplifies the current vein of nanny statism that seeks to control everything from how we travel, to how we eat and now, seemingly, how we live and love.

Let us hope that the outcry naturally produced by a few high-profile cases brings this law tumbling down – the sooner the better. The last thing we need is our own government getting ideas.

By Dylan Sharpe 

The iceman cometh

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Slip A man who recently slipped on some ice and hurt himself very badly told me tonight that when he asked why the pavement hadn't been gritted, the answer he received was that the council feared litigation if pavements were gritted and people nevertheless fell.

For the moment, pending a letter from Big Brother Watch to the relevant council to ascertain the background and their position, I won't name the council.  Nevertheless, I really want to ask Big Brother Watch supporters about this.  This is something commonly suggested; one often hears about such rules second-hand.  Does anyone have any experience of such things directly?

By Alex Deane

Media Coverage – January 2010

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For all media enquiries please call: 07538 28 00 41 (24 hrs)


Saturday 30th January


Daily Mail – Council snoopers question five-year-olds on home life

But privacy campaigners last night condemned the forms. Alex Deane, of Big Brother Watch, described it as ‘an unbelievable intrusion into private life’.


He said: ‘The state doesn’t bring up children, parents do. There is an important distinction between teaching and nannying – or even bullying – and this steps way over the mark.’

Rochdale Observer - ‘Big Brother’ row over town’s CCTV cameras

But campaign group Big Brother Watch, which released the report after sending a Freedom of Information request to every council in the country, claims the network is expensive and ineffective.


Director Alex Deane said: “People in Rochdale will rightly be wondering why they’re being watched so much more than their neighbours in Bury and Oldham, and why their council decided to spend so much more of their taxpayer money on CCTV.


“The Metropolitan Police have said that only one crime is solved for every 1,000 cameras and there is no evidence to suggest that this kind of heavy surveillance is as good as spending the money getting officers back on the beat.”

Info4Security – The BSIA Briefing: January 2010

The subject of CCTV was recently discussed in a report by Big Brother Watch, an offshoot of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. In that document, CCTV comes under attack in the wake of concerns highlighted over the rise in the number of cameras that local authorities are now operating.

 


Friday 29th January


The Independent – Alex Deane: How the march of officialdom is destroying cherished ways of life

A man in Ayr is facing a criminal trial after he was “caught” blowing his nose behind the wheel of his car.


It’s symptomatic of life in this country today, which is fast becoming so illiberal that it’s almost as if normal life is unlawful. From councils conducting covert surveillance of residents to check their catchment area to bureaucrats fining families for the contents of their bins, this culture of overbearing bossiness is changing our national life, with a “chilling effect” on social interaction.

Alert Systems – Spending on CCTV is Worthwhile

Big Brother Watch questions whether or not CCTV camera systems are actually helping in the governments’ effort in crime prevention and even in solving different crimes, this question emanated from the fact that there are sometimes inaccuracies in the data being gathered by the CCTV camera systems

 


Thursday 28th January


City AM – Alex Deane: When you liberate your employees, productivity and profit will follow

WE LIVE in a society in which we’re always watched – not just by the state, but in the workplace, too.


Keen to cut costs and direct workforce activities with precision, employers create ever more laborious internal rules and procedures – failing to consider the loss of the worker’s time in complying with such processes.


 

Wednesday 27th January


Waltham Forest Guardian – CCTV locations move branded “publicity stunt”

But campaign group Big Brother Watch praised the scheme, saying it will encourage compliance rather than merely trying to catch motorists out.

 


Tuesday 26th January


Human Events – 1,043 Ways For Government to Enter Your Home

At Big Brother Watch, we conducted the first nationwide survey of the number of officers in each Local Authority holding the power to enter a private home or business without requiring a warrant or police escort


We found almost 15,000 such inspectors. About a quarter of councils didn’t respond at all or didn’t respond fully, so it’s reasonable to suppose that the true figure is somewhere near 20,000.

Monday 25th January


LBC 97.3 FM – Dylan Sharpe interviewed by Nick Ferrari on the Breakfast Show


 


Saturday 23rd January


Daily Telegraph – Revealed: Britons to be asked for NI number, date of birth and signature to get right to vote

Alex Deane, a spokesman from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: “We have managed to have elections in this country without surrendering this sort of information for hundreds of years.


“This is a very small issue in this country, and is driven mostly by postal voting. If you have to go on database to vote some people might say ‘forget it then’.”

Daily Mail – Britons will be ‘forced to hand over NI number, date of birth and signature to get voting rights’

Alex Deane, from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said the risk of storing the extra information was unlikely to be worth it, given the small problem of electoral fraud.


‘Creating databases of our signatures, NI numbers and dates of birth has obvious risks for our privacy and identity security.

EMN News – Britain to adopt new voting policy in July


 


Friday 22nd January


BBC Radio West Midlands – Alex Deane interviewed by Ed Doolan


 


Thursday 21st January


Daily Telegraph – Magistrates’ details sent to prisoners

Alex Deane, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “This kind of error is unforgivably stupid. Not only is it irresponsible, but there’s no conceivable excuse for this kind of administrative incompetence.


“Even worse, it makes it less likely that people will serve as magistrates in the future.”

LBC 97.3FM – Alex Deane interviewed by Petrie Hoskin on Drivetime


Independent – Magistrates’ information sent to jail workshop

Alex Deane, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “Magistrates are decent enough to volunteer their time to do, for free, a job that we pay others to do.


“The criminal justice system depends on them and in return it ought to protect them.

Wednesday 20th January


Evening Standard – Big Benn feels the long arm of the law

FORMER Labour Cabinet minister Tony Benn has had a run-in with the police outside the Palace of Westminster.


Speaking alongside Tory MP David Davis at the launch of Big Brother Watch at the Vanilla nightclub, Benn recalled: “I was on my way to the House of Commons recently and outside, just walking down Parliament Street, I was stopped on the street by a woman police constable.


“She asked me my name and what I was doing. I asked why she wanted to know all this.


“She said Parliament was a very sensitive building and she was sure that I would understand that she was stopping me under the Terrorism Act.”


“That’s the first proper use of it I’ve heard of,” Davis retorted.

Standpoint – Not a TV show

Yesterday evening I went to the launch of a new organisation which has sprung up under the wing of the mighty Taxpayers Alliance. Big Brother Watch is headed up by Alex Deane and aims to log and protest against growing infringements on our liberties, small or otherwise.


 

Tuesday 19th January


BBC Radio Newcastle – Alex Deane interviewed by John Harle


 


Monday 18th January


Daily Telegraph – Airport body scanners could ‘breach human rights’

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The EHRC is completely right to question the use of full-body scanners in airports.


“They are another intrusion into our privacy in the name of protection, yet we know that they are not fail-safe and could see airport authorities becoming reliant on a deeply flawed method of detection.”

Yorkshire Post – Minister challenged over airport scanners

Privacy campaigners welcomed the EHRC’s move.


Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said the scanners are “another intrusion into our privacy in the name of protection, yet we know that they are not fail-safe.”

Press and Journal – Concern over use of body scanners


Thaindian News – UK full-body airport scanners raise human rights fears


 


Sunday 17th January


BBC News – Body scanners risk right to privacy, says UK watchdog

Privacy campaigners welcomed the EHRC’s move.


Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said the government had not considered privacy in its “desperation to be seen to be doing something”.


“They are another intrusion into our privacy in the name of protection, yet we know that they are not fail-safe and could see airport authorities becoming reliant on a deeply flawed method of detection,” he added.

Sky News – Watchdog Warns About Airport Body Scanners

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, added: “The EHRC is completely right to question the use of full-body scanners in airports. We know that they are not fail-safe and could see airport authorities becoming reliant on a deeply flawed method of detection.

BBC Politics Show South East – Alex Deane interviewed by Paul Seigert


Surrey Mirror – Council staff’s power of entry

Dozens of council ‘snoopers’ have the ability to enter a private premises without a warrant, a Mirror investigation has discovered.


The research details how a raft of intrusive laws has allowed council staff to barge into private premises uninvited. The power does not cover homes.


Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers within their council for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse.

Romford Recorder – Surprise of Town Hall entry powers

Out of all the councils in London, Havering has the eighth highest total of workers who can act in this way. The national average is only 47.


The figures came from campaign group Big Brother Watch.


Campaign director Dylan Sharpe criticised the high number of Havering Town Hall workers with the controversial power, saying it was unnecessary.


 


Friday 15th January


Romford and Havering Post – ‘Danger’ of Town Hall entry powers

MORE than 70 Havering Council workers are now able to enter our homes without a warrant.


The 76 staff have a ‘power of entry’ to walk uninvited into private properties – including our homes and workplaces – without a warrant or police escort.


The figures came from campaign group Big Brother Watch.

Lancashire Telegraph – 104 council staff have right to enter your home

THERE are 104 officers from Bury Council who can enter your home at any time without a warrant, it has been revealed.


The statistics were announced by a watchdog probing alleged “big brother” tactics used by local authorities.

Info4Security – CCTV is money well spent, says BSIA

In its report, published in December, Big Brother Watch – an offshoot of the Taxpayers’ Alliance – questions the effectiveness of CCTV in deterring or solving crimes. That’s an inaccurate assessment, according to Pauline Norstrom, BSIA CCTV Section chairman.


Norstrom said: “Thankfully the reality of CCTV in Britain is not the doom-laden picture that is painted by this report.”

Business 7 – Eclipse sets focus on high-tech CCTV sales

Figures released by the not-for-profit group, Big Brother Watch, suggests there are close to 60,000 CCTV cameras under the control of 418 local authorities across the UK.


 

Thursday 14th January


Ormskirk Advertiser – Ormskirk Advertiser readers send in their support for Aughton binman Albert Stewart

Alex Deane, director of the national pressure group Big Brother Watch, said: “This man is being punished for doing his job well and for using his common sense.


“The council should be ashamed – and they should put him back on the route he loves and knows so well.”


 

Wednesday 13th January


Daily Mail – Stop-and-search terror powers declared illegal by human rights court

Controversial anti-terror laws which let police stop and search without grounds for suspicion were yesterday ruled illegal by European judges.


Civil liberties campaigners heralded the human rights verdict as ‘a great day for freedom in Britain’.


Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Random stop and search powers were a shocking abuse of our historic, hard-won liberties.


‘What this tremendous judgment cannot undo is the embarrassment and anguish felt by the many people abused for no good reason under this now unlawful power.’

Daily Mail – Debate: Stop and search officers only have themselves to blame


Metro – Random stop and search is illegal 


Daily Mail – Taxman using terror laws 15 times a day to spy on suspects

Alex Deane of the anti-surveillance pressure group Big Brother Watch said: ‘The widespread abuse of the law by councils has shown us how carefully we must look at the way these powers are used.


‘The extent of the use of RIPA by Revenue and Customs suggests that many individual taxpayers have been snooped on without their knowledge.’


He added: ‘Readers of the Mail who see this news today might rightly wonder who has been watching them.’

Tuesday 12th January


The Independent – Police stop and search powers ruled illegal

The verdict was hailed as a “great day for freedom in Britain” by Big Brother Watch.


The privacy campaign group’s director, Alex Deane, went on: “Random stop and search powers were a shocking abuse of our historic, hard-won liberties. The fact remains that no successful prosecutions for terrorism offences ever resulted from these draconian stop and search powers.


“However, what this tremendous judgment cannot undo is the embarrassment and anguish felt by the many people abused for no good reason under this now unlawful power.”

Coventry Telegraph – YouTube footage of fight outside Nuneaton nightclub

CCTV footage of a brawl outside a Nuneaton nightclub has become an internet hit after being leaked on to YouTube. The five minute clip – called Night Out In Nuneaton – has received more than 36,000 views and includes a fight as well as scores of police officers arresting a topless man for kicking a moving patrol car.


But Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, said this footage should never have made it into the public domain.

24dash.com – UK police stop and search powers declared ‘illegal’


Sky Radio – Alex Deane interviewed about stop and search


TalkCarswell – A good day for liberty? Not really

The power to randomly stop and search someone has been ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights. Should lovers of freedom rejoice at the news?  Alex Deane, of Big Brother Watch fame, thinks so. I’m more doubtful.

 


Monday 11th January


Lancashire Evening Post – Town Hall snoopers free to search your home

More than 200 Town Hall workers across Lancashire have powers to enter people’s homes without a warrant and search for information, it has emerged.


Under various powers, a total of 234 council snoopers across central, west and north Lancashire can go into homes and businesses uninvited.


They have the right to do so under 418 separate state powers of entry in law, according to privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, which conducted the research.

Coventry Telegraph – Coventry named CCTV camera capital of the UK

CRITICS of the ‘Big Brother’ culture have revealed Coventry has the highest number of CCTV cameras in Great Britain when compared to cities and towns of similar sizes.


A study carried out by campaign group Big Brother Watch showed that in cities and towns with populations of about 300,000, the number of cameras in the city topped the list with 531 cameras – 1.8 cameras per 1,000 people.

Hampshire Chronicle – Powers given to snooping Hampshire council officials is ‘open to abuse’

DOES your pot plant have pests, is your fridge energy efficient, or are you practising unregulated hypnotism?


Almost 1,000 snooping council officers in Hampshire have the power to come into your home if they think the answer to any of those questions might be yes. The officials have the authority to enter properties at a moment’s notice without a warrant or police escort.


Campaigners Big Brother Watch argue the numbers show the citizens’ right to privacy has been completely undermined.


 

Sunday 10th January


Alex Deane interviewed by Roy Green on Corus


Andover Advertiser – Big Brother Watch’s power study

TEST Valley has more than 100 officers with the power to enter homes without a warrant or police escort.


Throughout the country 316 authorities have admitted they have a total of 14,793 officers who have the power to enter people’s homes based on more than 1,000 laws.


The information has come to light following a research by campaign group Big Brother Watch, which argues that the results show the citizens’ rights to privacy has been undermined.

Friday 8th January


Daily Mail – Binman forced out by council ‘for picking up too much rubbish’

Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This case is a sad indictment of Britain.


‘A man who has helped foster a nicer environment in his area is punished because the council has enforced pointless, pathetic rules designed to hit the law-abiding citizen in the pocket.’

Ilford Recorder – Alarm over ‘snooping powers’

The 56 officers equipped with the powers compares with a local authority average across the country of 47, figures compiled by campaign group Big Brother Watch reveal.


Dylan Sharpe, the group’s campaign director, said: “The rising number of local council inspectors able to enter private property is a real cause for concern.


“These officers are unlikely to have had the sort of training necessary for the task and the whole issue represents an unnecessary and worrying intrusion on the public’s right to privacy.”

Clacton Gazette – Double check all visitors, elderly warned

ELDERLY residents are being urged to double check all visitors following the revelation more than 180 council staff across Essex have the power to enter homes without a warrant.


Paul Teague, Essex Police watch co-ordinator for Tendring, said bogus callers could take advantage of the situation to get into peoples homes.


Last week figures revealed by civil liberty campaign group Big Brother Watch revealed 186 council inspectors can enter private property without a warrant or police escort.

Yorkshire Post – Watching them watching you: The amazing dramas captured on Leeds CCTV

Research published last month revealed there are nearly 3,000 cameras watching the public in the Yorkshire region. Hull City Council has installed 524 cameras, the most of any authority in England. Leeds has 385, while Sheffield has 377 - Data from Big Brother Watch.

Thursday 7th January


Irish Times – More Britons caught on camera by CCTV – but fewer criminals

Covert surveillance is widespread and popular in Britain, but police statistics call into question CCTV’s effectiveness


THE OUTER Hebrides in Scotland are somewhere one might think one would go for privacy, but the 26,000 people who live there are among the most-watched by CCTV cameras anywhere in the United Kingdom.


Opponents of CCTV, such as Big Brother Watch, argue that the £250 million spent running the systems could be better spent, and that the images produced by the cameras are often so poor as to be unusable in court.

 


Wednesday 6th January


Daily Telegraph – Foreign footballers must carry ID cards

Alex Deane, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, added: “It is wrong to force people to give up details of their most private, personal information.


“When it’s someone high-profile, there is an added danger of that material being sold on.”

Cumbernauld News – Our busybody officials: Survey claims Cumbernauld and Kilsyth are part of a ‘Big Brother’ state

NORTH Lanarkshire has come FOURTH out of more than 300 local authorities in a UK-wide survey of how many staff from each council can search your home or workplace without a warrant or police escort.


The information has come from a civil liberties group which wants to highlight privacy issues – but NLC has blasted the ‘Barging In’ study as “scaremongering” and says it is solely aimed at causing unnecessary worry and distress to the public.


Big Brother Watch, the new campaign from the founders of the influential TaxPayers’ Alliance, aims to fight intrusions on privacy and protecting liberties.

Rochdale Online – CCTV isn’t the answer, says campaign group

New research has shown that the number of CCTV cameras controlled by local councils has tripled nationally in the last 10 years from 21,000 to 60,000.


The research conducted by Big Brother Watch, a new campaign fighting intrusions on privacy and protecting liberties, shows Rochdale has 170 CCTV cameras, which works out at 0.8 per 1,000 people for its 205,357 strong population.

Leith FM – Alex Deane interviewed by Graeme Logan


BBC Radio 5Live – Alex Deane interviewed by Matthew Bannister


Spy Review – British People Under Increasing Scrutiny, But CCTV Footage Lacking Quality


 


Tuesday 5th January


Daily Telegraph – Number of crimes caught on CCTV falls by 70 per cent, Metropolitan Police admits

Campaigners suggested that this change meant that the effectiveness of CCTV as a crime fighting tool might have been exaggerated by the previous figures.


Last month it emerged that the number of town hall-controlled Big Brother CCTV cameras has trebled in a decade. There are now 60,000 cameras trained on members of the public by council snoopers – one for every 1,000 people in the UK.


Alexander Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s right to say that the experiment with CCTV has failed. They can’t have it both ways. Either the figures reflect a fall or they were wrong in the first place.”

LBC 97.3 FM – Dylan Sharpe interviewed by James Whale on Drivetime


Alex Deane addresses Bury St Edmunds Rotary Club


Public Service – One in eight crimes spotted by CCTV


Evening Standard – Huge drop in crimes solved by costly CCTV

But Alexander Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s right to say that the experiment with CCTV has failed. They can’t have it both ways. Either the figures reflect a fall or they were wrong in the first place. Crimes that might have been solved by conventional methods go unsolved as a result.”

Alex Deane speaks at Learning to Earn training event 


SFS Group – Effectiveness of cctv called into question


The Newcastle Journal – Councils using ‘snooping’ powers to crack down on offenders

Campaign group Big Brother Watch has also been critical of the use of undercover snooping.


Campaign director Dylan Sharpe said: “These figures serve to highlight the mess that local councils are getting into when it comes to using Ripa. The abuse of Ripa is responsible for a major breakdown in trust between the public and their local councils, which won’t be solved until these powers are given a massive overhaul.”


 

Monday 4th January


Cambridge Times – South Cambs residents the least watched in the country

RESIDENTS of South Cambridgeshire are among the least watched in the country, with just eight public-facing closed circuit television cameras operated by the district council – 0.1 cameras for every 1,000 of the daytime population – according to a national campaign group.


Figures released by the campaign group Big Brother Watch show that Huntingdonshire has proportionately seven times as many, with HDC’s 114 cameras representing 0.7 per 1,000 population.

Daily Gazette – Big Brother Colchester: Spy cameras treble over past decade


Burnley Express – Wigan’s very own Big Brother


Garstang Courier – City CCTV cameras under investigation


BBC Radio Essex – Dylan Sharpe interviewed by Ray Clark on the Breakfast Show


BBC Radio Northampton – Dylan Sharpe interviewed by Joe Pignatiello on the Breakfast Show


The Hunts Post – South Cambs residents the least watched in the country


Blackpool Gazette – City CCTV cameras under investigation


Wigan Today – Wigan’s very own Big Brother

Big Brother is definitely watching you – Wigan has the second highest number of CCTV cameras in Great Britain when compared to towns of similar sizes.


A study, carried out by non-partisan campaign group Big Brother Watch, showed that in towns and cities with populations of about 300,000, only Coventry, with 531, had more cameras than Wigan.
Wigan Council runs 446 CCTV cameras, covering a population of 301,415.

Lancashire Evening Post – City CCTV cameras under investigation

Town Hall chiefs have set up a “crime and disorder group” made up of councillors to see whether the city has effective CCTV.


Currently, the city has 136 cameras in public places, according to recent figures from pressure group Big Brother Watch.

Oldham Evening Chronicle – CCTV isn’t working says campaign group

 

Saturday 2nd January


Ipswich Evening Star – Councils ‘selling names and addresses’

Last night, Alex Deane, the director of Big Brother Watch, said: “I think this is an appalling abuse of council powers. We all think that we can trust the council with our basic electoral data.”


“Nobody thinks that when they tell the council their personal details that these details are going to be sold on. There has never been any warning to anyone that this information would be sold for profit by these councils.”


 

Friday 1st January


Daily Telegraph – Police officers ‘prefer warmth of police station to catching criminals’

Alex Deane, director of Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties campaign group, said: “There is a culture of laziness among many of today’s police. There is a common belief that police would rather chase targets than criminals.”

BBC Radio 5Live – Dylan Sharpe interviewed by Nick Ravenscroft 


Ipswich Evening Star – Officials given powers to enter homes

Details revealed today by Big Brother Watch, a new campaign from the founders of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, show that thousands of council officers across the country can enter properties without requiring a warrant or police escort.


However, Ipswich Borough Council was one of 115 local councils that either refused or failed to respond to the Freedom of Information request by Big Brother Watch.

Barging In: Estimated 20,000 Council Officers in Britain Able to Enter Private Property

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 28 Comments

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch – the new campaign fighting intrusions on privacy and protecting liberties – reveals that there are at least 14,793 officers in 73 per cent of local councils in Britain who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police escort
 
Top lines from the research (full report including breakdown by local authority available here) include:

  • There are at least 14,793 officers in local councils nationwide who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police officer escort
  • That is equal to 47 officers in every local authority in Britain able to enter homes and workplaces
  • Given that 115 (27 per cent) local councils either refused to answer our FOI requests, or failed to answer in an acceptable manner, this figure could be much higher and indeed be as high as 20,000 council officers in Britain
  • Northamptonshire County Council and Glasgow City Council have the most officers able to enter your home with almost 500 each

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch has revealed that there are at least 14,793 officers in local councils nationwide who can enter private property without requiring a warrant or police escort. Due to the complexity of the question and the huge number of laws permitting power of entry, 27 per cent of councils were unable to answer the FOI request in full. If the average from those councils who gave a sufficient answer was extrapolated to the full number of councils nationwide, there could be as many as 20,000 local authority officers in Britain able to enter your home or place of work.
 
In July 2008 the Home Office published a full list of the 1,043 laws permitting state inspectors to enter people’s homes and premises. Barging In is the first nationwide survey of the number of officers in each Local Authority holding the power to enter a private home or business without requiring a warrant or police escort. Through Freedom of Information requests sent to every single local council in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Big Brother Watch has arrived at a total figure for the number of environmental health technicians, anti-social behaviour officers, safety control inspectors and so on who, on 15th June 2009, if they so wished, could enter your private residence or place of work.
 
Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“Once, a man’s home was his castle. Today the Big Brother state wants to inspect, regulate and standardise the inside of our homes.

"Councils are dishing out powers of entry to officers within their council for their own ease, without giving due thought to the public’s right to privacy and the potential for abuse.

"There needs to be a much closer eye kept on the number of officers granted the right to barge into private premises without a warrant.” 

To read the full report, which includes detailed information on every local authority, please click here.