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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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Where’s the porn, we’re British?

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Civil Liberties, Home, Online privacy, Privacy, Web blocking | 15 Comments

“The Supreme Court says pornography is anything without artistic merit that causes sexual thoughts; that’s their definition, essentially. No artistic merit, causes sexual thoughts. Hmm. . . . Sounds like . . . every commercial on television, doesn’t it?” Bill Hicks

Later today we’re expecting a speech from the Prime Minister on internet adult content and how four of the UK’s biggest internet service providers (ISPs) are agreeing to implement an opt-in to adult material online.

We should tread very carefully when developing state-sanctioned censorship of the internet. Let alone the quagmire of deciding what should be censored, it is a dangerous path to go down to expect technology to replace parental oversight and responsibility.

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Keeping up with Big Brother Watch at Conservative Party Conference

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 1 Comment

So far, Big Brother Watch has been busy at Conservative Party Conference.  Thanks to our Director, Nick Pickles, and former Director, Daniel Hamilton, our fringe events went excellently.  We have heard a lot of interesting comments and support since the weekend as well.

Yesterday, Conor Burns MP, took part in our fringe event on the Coalition’s track record with civil liberties.  He discussed a policies including the limits the European Arrest Warrant places on the British system, a British Bill of Rights and other issues with the rule of law and due process.  His comments were featured on the BBC news site last night and can be found here.  We also heard great words from David Jones MP as he spoke of some of the victories civil liberties campaigners have seen since the Coalition came into power.  These are encouraging developments, but of course, we’re anxious to see more! Read more

Big Brother Watch at Conservative Party Conference

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Big Brother Watch is once again participating in the Freedom Zone at Conservative Conference, hosting two meetings with a range of excellent speakers.

On the Sunday, I’ll be discussing the European Arrest Warrant, and the urgent need to reform its use. Speakers include Nick de Bois MP, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament Martin Callanan MEP, Dominic Raab MP and Andrew Symeou, a victim of European Arrest Warrant.  (Sunday 2 October: 4.45pm: The European Arrest Warrant: Time for Urgent Reform)

Monday will see a broader discussion of the Coalitions’ track record on civil liberties and what the remaining years of the Parliament may hold. Speakers include Conor Burns MP, David Jones MP and former Big Brother Watch Director, Dan Hamilton. (Monday 3 October, 3.15pm: Freedom, Privacy and Civil Liberties: Where next for the Coalition?)

I will also be speaking at a Taxpayers Alliance event looking at Digital Policy under the Coalition. I’ve promised to try to keep my opinions on Cliff Richard under wraps during what is sure to be a lively fringe meeting. (Tuesday 4 October, 1.45pm: Digital Policy Under the Coalition)

So if you’ll be around at Conference, do step into one of our events, we’d love to see you there.  Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @bbw1984 to see our latest news, blogs and information from across the weekend.

Betfair fails to inform millions of customers of credit card details loss

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 3 Comments

The news that online gambling firm Betfair lost millions of customers’ credit card details in a cyber attack 18 months ago – and then did not notify customers - is nothing short of a scandal.

For the personal details of millions of customers to be lost is one thing – but to then fail to inform those affected is outrageous.  Whoever made the decision to sacrifice the financial security of millions of people  for the sake of Betfair’s reputation should resign immediately.

Big Brother Watch has continued to highlight how the regulation of personal data in the UK is dangerously lacking. This incident reaffirms the need for more severe penalties for individuals and companies who do not fulfil their responsibility to protect personal information.

It once again highlights how the volume of personal information held by private companies poses a clear threat to individual privacy and civil liberties if it s not adequately protected.

If also reaffirms the need for consumers to have a ‘right to know’ about security breaches concerning their own data, as is the case in the US.

New layout, same lax attitude to privacy: the Facebook Timeline is coming

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home, Online privacy, Social Networking | 5 Comments

In a matter of weeks, if you’re one of the 800m users of Facebook you’ll be seeing (another) major shift in how your profile looks.

The new ‘timeline’ layout is already in use by developers and will be implemented for everyone in a matter of weeks. You might be surprised by this, as unless you were watching Mark Zuckerberg’s speech at Facebook’s f8 conference last week, the site hasn’t begun to tell users about the changes.

It appears Facebook are once again playing fast and loose with personal information. Despite these changes being imminent, users are still in the dark about their implications and for many it may mean a nasty surprise as information they believe to be private – going back from the date they joined the site – is suddenly visible to anyone.

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Bad Journalists and Bad Regulation

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 3 Comments

Ivan Lewis, the Labour Shadow Culture Secretary, has proposed tighter regulations for bad journalists, calling for them to be struck off a register of professional journalists for questionable work.  This announcement came with Lewis’ speech intended as a “message to Murdoch” following the phone hacking scandal.

Lewis claims to uphold the ideals of a free press in Britain, but follows this claim up with a statement leading to further regulation of journalists, saying:

“Neither the current broken system of self regulation or state oversight will achieve the right balance. We need a new system of independent regulation including proper like for like redress which means mistakes and falsehoods on the front page receive apologies and retraction on the front page. And as in other professions the industry should consider whether people guilty of gross malpractice should be struck off.”

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Big Brother is Watching You at Work- And Everywhere Else Too

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in CCTV, Home, Media coverage, Privacy, Riots, Technology | 4 Comments

We’ve learned several lessons from CCTV in recent weeks and the desired and actual effects of it on social behaviour.  This weekend, rugby player Mike Tindall was shown in a questionable situation on CCTV footage from a club in New Zealand.  Thousands of hours of CCTV footage during the UK riots have been scoured by hundreds of people and yet have brought a relatively small number of fresh offenders to court.  What we’ve learned is that no number of cameras creates the magic ‘fix’ that stops crimes from taking place.  Instead, they are an unwelcome invasion into our privacy, expensive investments that could be better spent elsewhere, and an ineffective means of ‘policing’, whether it be on the streets, in the bars, or the office. Read more

Strip Searches, RIPA and Unnecessary Force

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home, International, Privacy, Terrorism Legislation, United States | 2 Comments

In 2008 in New Jersey in the US, Albert Florence, was mistakenly arrested in front of his pregnant wife and young son, taken to jail, strip searched and humiliated in an overly intrusive manner for the minor offence of failing to pay a fine.  His lawyer is filing suit against the New Jersey jails on the grounds that the strip search the man endured was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights protecting him from unreasonable search and seizure.  Florence is one of a number of individuals filing suit for undergoing a strip search for offences including driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal, and riding a bicycle without an audible bell.

Florence and his lawyer claim he gave no reason to be suspected of carrying contraband and the search conducted was unnecessary and invasive.  The courts and the American Bar Association, however, are split on the issue.  Following a court decision in 1979, Bell vs. Wolfish, courts have interpreted the verdict to protect the Fourth Amendment of criminals charged with minor crimes, but does not bar law enforcement from conducting intrusive body searches on them entirely.  Officers must show reasonable cause for the searches in the cases of those charged only of minor crimes.  However, the other argument is, of course, that it is in the interest of law enforcement to ensure the prevention of contraband entering into the prison population.  They claim that by preventing strip searches in cases of minor offences, it would, in effect, provide a route for drugs and weapons to enter jails. Read more

Links of the Day Friday 2nd September 2011

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | Leave a comment

UK Police Arrest Two Men in Joint -FBI Investigation Into Anonymous, LulzSec Hacking Attacks

‘New Laws Not Needed’ to Block Social Media

 Children’s Case Files Found in Second-hand Shop

 Phone Hacking: 34-Year-Old Man Arrested

Michigan Bar Owners Ban Lawmakers for Banning Smoking

 WikiLeaks Publishes Full Cache of Unredacted Cables

Nick Pickles appointed new Big Brother Watch Director

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 2 Comments

Introducing Big Brother Watch’s new director, Nick Pickles. Chief Executive Matthew Elliott said:

“I have had my eye on Nick for a while as a rising star on the political scene and I am delighted that he will be joining us as BBW’s new Director.  Nick is an effective communicator and a great campaigner, and readers of his blog will know that he has long supported BBW’s objectives as a volunteer, so we’re thrilled he will now be able to carry on in a full-time capacity.”

Commenting on his appointment, Nick said:

“I am delighted to be joining Big Brother Watch at a critical time for civil liberties in Britain, taking forward the excellent work of the team in recent years. It is an exciting challenge to play a role in holding the Government to account and ensuring the creep of the state does not trample over yet more individual rights.

“After a year in office, the Coalition’s early rhetoric on redressing the last Government’s authoritarian policies has all too often not been matched with action. A desire to restrict the internet and monitor the communications of individuals is the latest in a line of policy areas that fails to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens and in the coming months and years I look forward to ensuring Big Brother Watch remains a leading voice in these debates.”