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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 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

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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.

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Holding Page

Want your children to have school dinners? Surrender their fingerprints

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Andrea 2 Andrea Leadsom is the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for South Northamptonshire

Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of students from Sponne and Campion Schools to the Houses of Parliament.  But over our sandwiches afterwards, sitting on a wall in the drizzle of a cold Monday in Westminster, one of the students raised an issue with me that I found truly shocking.

He wanted to know if I thought that fingerprinting/iris scanning of children in schools might breach their Human Rights under EU legislation.  I was surprised as, until he explained further, I was unaware that millions of our children are right now being required by their schools to have fingerprints or iris scans done in order to borrow a library book or buy their lunch.

How would you feel if the government suddenly passed a law that every adult had to be fingerprinted at their local police station? Yet schools it would appear have accumulated fingerprint or iris data on millions of children, some as young as three. And apparently often without their parents' consent.

My student friend told me that a member of his family working in security systems believes that with a few hundred pounds of ‘hacking’ equipment, it would be possible to sit in a car outside the school gates and collect all that data.  The lifelong, permanently distinguishing data of children is at risk of being lost or stolen, and for what? 

I really fear for the direction this country is headed in.  There are so many examples of data being lost or stolen – collecting this permanent record of a human being should only be done for extreme reasons and certainly not for identifying whose library book is due back.

We risk the next generation growing up with an acceptance of cradle-to-grave state snooping and control, with all the errors and potential for identity theft that will ensue.  What's more, millions of pounds of taxpayers' money must be being wasted on installing fingerprint/iris readers in schools.

Liverpool Council has rejected this recording of children.  I will be writing to Northants County Council in the hope that they will do likewise.

We shall be watching for the results of Andrea's campaign with great interest.  If you want to oppose fingerprinting in your school, get in touch with Big Brother Watch, or with the excellent Leave Them Kids Alone campaign.

Big Brother Watch Newsletter 11.12.09

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Dear Supporter,

This week the government got round to responding to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s study into state databases, a full 9 months after the original report was released. ‘Justice’ Minister Michael Wills set about the task in the traditional way – playing up the positives, ignoring the negatives and leaving out the latest proposed databases including ID cards, the new EHRC equality database, and the NICE homes and health database. The minister also announced the establishment of a whole new database: the government now intends to take our National Insurance numbers and signatures for the electoral roll. As BBW noted, we have managed to have elections in this country without surrendering this sort of information for hundreds of years, so why does the government need to gather this additional data now?
 

There will always be misguided cheerleaders who think this sort of action is perfectly reasonable (Mr Aawrongovitch, for instance) but Big Brother Watch is here to oppose any new government database that intrudes unnecessarily into our lives.


 



Joint exposé on the Equalities and Human Rights Commission


On Friday, Big Brother Watch and the blogger Old Holborn teamed up for a sting on one the most notoriously nannying government watchdogs – the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Old Holborn found a tender for a ‘Lifestyle Database’ on an IT services website and immediately sent a freedom of information request to the Commission requesting further details.

The answers he received were truly shocking. The EHRC plans to compile an enormous database that measures each person’s so-called ‘level of equality’. This means they will be looking at data ranging from A&E admission records to child health surveys to voting records. And worst of all, the data will be freely available to ‘researchers’ who sign up on the EHRC website.


Big Brother Watch contacted the national press and the true horrors were revealed. We are yet to see if this action has shamed the government into ending the tender, but we will be keeping a close eye on the EHRC from now on. We are always on the look-out for any sort of potential Big Brother plans, so if you see anything that might require further investigation, send it to
[email protected] and help us fight back against the Big Brother State.



 


Big Brother Watch Guerrilla Sticker Action

The Big Brother Watch sticker campaign continues to grow with nearly 7,000 stickers sent out across Britain, Europe and the United States. We have also seen an upsurge in the number of photos coming in, including the mischievous shot you see on the right. The full gallery is available here.



As ever, all those that have got their stickers get snapping and get sending. If you haven’t asked for any stickers yet, email your name and address to [email protected] together with the number of stickers you would like us to send and we will post them in an envelope to that address; completely free of charge.

The chance to name, shame, and take a photo of our Big Brother State awaits!


Blogs of the Week


 


Childhood’s End – There is, unfortunately, a campaign which seeks to end the standard and not unreasonable custom of toy makers who package toys for girls in pink. They, of course, have a right to have their pointless and pernickety campaign, just as the millions of young girls who enjoy pink stuff have a right to buy it. When a (*sigh*) ‘Justice Minister gets involved: it becomes nanny state government legislating against small businesses. Bridget Prentice - consider yourself named and very much shamed.



‘Ello ‘ello ‘ello – prepare to be Tasered – the British Transport Police risk an arms war on our public transport by handing stun guns over to officers. The police have kept order in this country for many years without needing weapons; is this really going to make us safer?


Police closing pubs for ‘inadequate CCTV coverage’ – number of pubs closing per week in the UK due to recession: 50. Number of crimes solved by CCTV for every 1000 cameras: 1. Number of stupid regulations Lancashire Police are currently in the process of carrying out…you get the idea.


 


 


Media Coverage


Human Events – Is Blair a War Criminal?


According to Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch and HUMAN EVENTS contributor, “It was very strange of the Government to try to keep these proceedings a secret. Whatever one thinks of the Iraq conflict, the purpose of the Chilcot Report was to put public misgivings to rest. That was never going to happen with the inquiry held in secret, and although public pressure has now forced a degree of openness, people will continue to harbor suspicions about the parts that are kept from us.”


City Talk 103.5FM – Dylan Sharpe interviewed by Peter McDowall


Daily Express – New speed cameras to blitz 20mph zones


Dylan Sharpe, of Big Brother Watch, said: “The introduction of average speed cameras into residential areas is yet another intrusion into the lives of the assailed British motorist, making it ever more possible for the state to track and log our journeys.”


Freedom Today – How to fight back against the surveillance state

Pink News – Equality and Human Rights Commission to collate sexuality status from across government databases


Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, told the Daily Mail: ‘This intrusive database is being built without even the smallest consideration for privacy. When people go to hospital, they don’t think that information about their illness is going to be shared with the EHRC.”


Corus radio network, Canada – Alex Deane interviewed by Roy Green


Daily Mail – Equality snoopers to keep files on your sexuality


Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This intrusive database is being built without even the smallest consideration for privacy.


‘When people go to hospital, they don’t think that information about their illness is going to be shared with the EHRC. What possible right does the EHRC have to build this database, and then share what they’ve gathered with other people on their website?”


The Argus (Brighton) - Hove school slammed for fingerprint plans


Big Brother Watch has complained that schools do not have the means for keeping biometric data like fingerprints safe. Director of Conservative campaign group Big Brother Watch Alex Deane said: “A fingerprint is a unique characteristic which doesn’t change over time and is regularly used throughout the legal system.


“Handing this important piece of biometric data over to schools, which have many tremendous qualities but do not have secure data keeping facilities, is both dangerous and an intrusion into the lives of children who are unaware of the consequences.”

Munir Hussain – a latter-day Tony Martin

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Hussain_2_659646a I have written before about the liberties and freedoms of the law-abiding majority, a theme touched on more recently by Dylan.  In that vein, the case of Munir Hussain is on my mind today.

Like Tony Martin, Mr Hussain is a man charged with harming those who broke into his home.  This was no common or garden burglary.  When the Hussains returned home from the Mosque, three masked men awaited them in their house.  They tied up Munir Hussain's family and degraded them.  The children must have been terrified for their lives, and the parents – including this defendant – must have suffered that worst of agonies, the fear that one's child is to suffer and, perhaps, to die.

Hussain fought them off and chased them and seriously injured one of them with a cricket bat.  He has now been sentenced to 30 months imprisonment.

If he not had that adrenalin, that admirable, channelled aggression, he would not have been able to fight these men off and whatever they had planned for him and his wife and children would have been done to them.  It is that adrenalin and aggression, aroused entirely by this most ugly of actions from his "victim" and accomplices, which led Hussain to chase them out and to strike them.

My question is this.  Should the benefit of the doubt not rest with a man in his situation, grievously provoked and genuinely in fear for his life and the lives of his children?  I accept that there are points beyond which we are not entitled to go, even when severely provoked.  You are not entitled to tie up the burglar you catch in your house and torture him.  But nothing in Hussain's behaviour seems to have been calculated or planned – it was a spur of the moment reaction to the invasion of his home by a gang of masked men and my instinct is to say, in choosing that path that gang took the risk of having what happened, happen.

I understand that he is to appeal.  We will watch with interest.

By Alex Deane