Well, the headline says it all, really – but here's the story. In sum:
Wigan Council believes a memory stick containing hundreds of confidential details fell out of an employee's pocket
To which I'd say, (1) This was back in January – shouldn't that be ex-employee? (2) Doesn't this say something to those who want more government databases?
You'll note that we have a "losing data" tag on the site. It's merited because it happens so often.
By Alex Deane
As reported over at the Guardian:
iiNet was being sued by more than 30 film and TV studios, including Village Roadshow, Universal, Sony and Warner Bros, for allowing its users to download copyrighted material. Sydney's federal court, however, ruled that the company cannot be held liable for the downloading habits of its customers. If iiNet had lost the case it would essentially have been required to police its users on behalf of copyright holders.
The politics of the internet is never going to be simple, but creating criminals out of people who are merely using the technology available to them is a massive infringement of liberty. Touching upon this, Michael Malone, iiNet's co-founder, said
"we've probably wasted a year. When iiNet, the internet industry and the rights holders could have been working together to find better models.”
While this ruling will not directly impact upon British law, it will be encouraging news for UK based Internet Service Provider’s such as TalkTalk, who have publically opposed impending legalisation that will require ISP’s to not only police their customers – but to disconnect those suspected of ‘illegal’ filesharing.
This is, I believe, a positive step towards recognising our right to privacy. Let’s hope the British courts follow Australia’s lead.
By Edward Hockings
The first comes from the Daily Telegraph via Manchester:
Man can't prove ID with ID card
Darren McTeggart tried to use the £30 ID card to pick up a replacement credit card from a branch of Santander in Manchester, where the scheme was rolled out on a voluntary basis last year.
Mr McTeggart, one of the first people to get the card, said: “They said it was not on their list of approved ID.
“I sent an email to the head office, but they wouldn’t budge. The government has been pushing this card on TV and elsewhere so it beggars belief why the bank won’t accept it.”
The second comes courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen:
Broken CCTV missed vandal attack
Businessman Barry Clayton was left fuming when his shop window was smashed and he discovered a CCTV camera opposite was not working.
He said: “On Saturday night, one of our shop windows was kicked in. We had hoped that it might have been caught on camera. There would have been a really good chance of getting some evidence off it.
“But we’ve looked at the camera – which was just a few yards away high up on a wall – today and yesterday and it’s facing the wall that it’s mounted on. Its main field of vision will just be the cream-coloured wall that it’s on.”
So there we have it. Mr McTeggart presumably foolishly jumped at the chance to get an ID card because the government had told him that it was a much simpler and easier form of identification; while Mr Clayton had always assumed that the council CCTV camera opposite his shop would deter criminals but catch any who chanced an attack on his shop.
Intrusive and ineffective – Big Brother Watch's surveillance State of the Union.
By Dylan Sharpe
It has been another busy week for officious policemen and intrusive council inspectors, whose misdemeanors and often absurd behaviour we have catalogued at http://www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/ – more on this, and our latest campaign, shortly. But first, in case you missed it, is a story given minimal coverage in the national press but deserving of far wider recognition.
Our full report is available here, but needless to say, Big Brother Watch is outraged that the government could even consider increasing the level of state surveillance in Britain even further, and doing so by sending CCTV into the sky. There can be only a handful of people in the country who want to see their skies clouded with unmanned spy planes and we are confident that any attempts to implement this proposal will be met with strong public opposition. As ever, we will keep you informed of developments and if you hear of anything that we should know about please do email us at [email protected].
Is there nothing for which they won’t fine us?
Alex Deane, the Director of Big Brother Watch, has written exclusively in the Independent today explaining why Michael’s case is sadly not a one-off and how the British public, who are increasingly been vicitmised and turned into criminals for the most banal and pointless reasons, can fight back. As he writes:
Donning the uniform of office doesn’t – or shouldn’t – entail unlimited power to exact petty bureaucracy. It ought to come with discretion, with common sense. Failing that, let’s try to bully them back.
Blogs of the Week
Jeepers, creepers, where’d ya get them peepers - great news as the ICO announces it will be investigating the chilling online CCTV watching game, ‘Internet Eyes’
John Gaunt’s case is an important test for freedom of speech - regular interviewer of Big Brother Watch spokesmen and current presenter on SunTalk, Jon ‘Gaunty’ Gaunt arrives before the High Court to defend our right to free speech
- – Coming Up: Tune into BBC Breakfast on BBC 1 and BBC News24 to watch Alex Deane debate the use of full-body scanners with Transport Secretary, Lord Andrew Adonis – -
Waltham Forest Guardian – CCTV locations move branded “publicity stunt”
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.
LBC 97.3 FM - Dylan Sharpe interviewed by Nick Ferrari on the Breakfast Show
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’.”
Having published our report concerning the British Isles’ submergence in CCTV, there is now cause for concern that CCTV will soon being doing more than just watching us. It seems that the prospect of unmanned airborne spy drones is only the begining.
An outfit dedicated to covering the European Security Research Programme named NeoConOptican, reported yesterday that the European Commission are funding a project called Samurai – a “next generation” CCTV system, which is, they write:
capable of identifying and tracking individuals “acting suspiciously” in crowded public spaces. The project has received €2.5 million in EU funding under the Fp7 security research programme.
The blurb on the official Samurai project website, makes it clear that their intention is take surveillance to a whole new level:
Existing systems focus on analysing recorded video. SAMURAI is to develop a real-time adaptive behaviour profiling and abnormality detection system for alarm event alert and prediction.
We aim to develop an abnormal detection system based on a heterogeneous sensor network consisting of both fix-positioned CCTV cameras and mobile wearable cameras with audio and positioning sensors.
These networked heterogeneous sensors will function cooperatively to provide enhanced situation awareness.
There we have it. Research into surveillance systems designed to identify and follow unusual behaviour and which are capable of tracking people, vehicles and luggage are being funded by our contributions to the EU.
Let’s picture the future: a spring afternoon, in 2015, silent Drones hover above our head; cameras equipped with the ability to listen to the conversation I am having surround me; images of the Golfing equipment I’m carrying are being sent across the system as possible weapons of mass destruction.
Samurai is just the beginning. The potential is frightening.
By Edward Hockings
On-the-spot fines have played an enormous part in creating criminals out of otherwise law-abiding British people.
Vanessa Kelly – the young mum issued with a fixed penalty notice for littering when she threw bread to the ducks in a park – and Michael Mancini – the businessman fighting Ayr Council over an FPN received when he blew his nose in his car while stopped at traffic lights – are two examples we have covered, but there are many more who have silently paid-up having been fined for pointless and pernicious non-crimes.
It is therefore with some cheer that we see that the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has today in the Telegraph admitted that he is "troubled" by the increased use of on-the-spot fines, saying:
"I welcome the review launched by the Lord Chancellor and I hope that it will lead to material changes in the way fixed penalty notices, cautions and conditional cautions are used."
This change can't come soon enough. As the Magistrates' Association recently warned, police cannot be trusted to hand out summary justice and will act as "judge and jury" if given powers to issue more on-the-spot fines.
We will follow the results of Jack Straw's review with interest.
By Dylan Sharpe
Today the Home Affairs Select Committee heard evidence on the retention of innocent DNA samples from Sir Alec Jeffreys - the man who developed techniques for DNA fingerprinting and DNA profiling which are now used all over the world.
While Big Brother Watch could sadly not be there, the tireless Lobbydog - a prolific blogger of Westminster gossip – has provided a brief transcript of the key exchanges that I felt were worth sharing on our blog.
“If my DNA were to be put on the database I would object profoundly against that,” said Sir Alec Jeffreys at a hearing of the Home Affairs Committee.
“What advantage is it to me, as an entirely blameless citizen? The best outcome is that my DNA would sit there cluttering up a fridge and that my DNA profile would sit there cluttering up the database.
“The worst that could happen is that there is some glitch in the database that made a false match to my DNA profile and that brings me into the frame of a criminal investigation which has very serious repercussions.”
Crucially, Sir Alec finished by saying that if he’d known his DNA analysis would be used by the Government in the way it has, he’d have been “astonished, perplexed and deeply worried”.
“I’ve always understood that one of the great foundations of English law was a presumption of innocence, but obviously now there is a presumption of future possible guiltyishness,” he said.
He makes several other excellent points against why innocent DNA should be removed from the database (including the increased likelihood of false matches between family members – who share similar DNA profiles) – the full report really is a must read.
By Dylan Sharpe
Mike Freer, the former leader of Barnet council in north London and now Conservative candidate in Finchley and Golders Green, has an extended interview in the Guardian this morning.
As the self-styled "architect" of the easyCouncil approach to local government – whereby residents are asked to pay a flat-rate of council tax for the standard services provided by the authority, but have the option of paying extra tax for additional services – Mike has shown that he understands the need for efficiency, particularly in our current economic climate.
However, efficiency should never be gained by compromising values of privacy and freedom and building more state databases - values which his party leadership have frequently claimed are a priority – but he makes this very mistake in his interview, saying:
Other ideas in this vein include a "common database" on individuals that would prevent people being approached time and time again by "different arms of the state".
This sounds ominously similar to the ideas of Sir David Varney, who urged government departments to focus on the ‘totality of the relationship with the citizen’, ‘identity management’ and creating ‘a single source of truth’ on the citizen.
Databases are not the answer to efficiency. They invariably either go wrong (and thus the data they spit out results in people being unfairly treated) or – as is particularly the case with state databases – some absent-minded civil servant leaves a laptop on the train or his briefcase in a coffee shop and the data falls into the wrong hands.
Sorry, but you need to go back to the easyDrawing-Board on this one, Mike.
By Dylan Sharpe
Over at the Express, a really quite disgraceful story. Apparently, taxi passengers in Southampton had complained foreign drivers could not understand English. So a group of drivers put St George’s Cross stickers in their cars, bearing the slogan “English Speaking Driver”.
Southampton Council has called them racists, and said that they will remove their licences – i.e. their livelihoods – if they don't remove the signs.
As I said in the Express, I think that Southampton Council should leave these taxi drivers alone. Do they not have more important things to be dealing with than enforcing pointless rules and petty complaints?
If a driver put up a sign saying they spoke Urdu, French or German, this decision would never have been made.
What does the other side say? Ged Grebby, of Campaign group “Show Racism the Red Card”, says
I don’t have a problem with displaying the cross of St George but the ‘English speaking driver’ part is where it crosses the line into racism.
To show what total nonsense that is, let's try this with just one change:
I don’t have a problem with displaying the cross of St George but the ‘Telagu speaking driver’ part is where it crosses the line into racism.
Not only would nobody complain. I imagine it would be thought laudable and helpful by Grebby and her ilk, and any attempt to stop it would be opposed.
I'm left wondering – (1) how we ever let things get this far, when councils would intrude into the lives of residents in such an absurd way; (2) how anyone on said council could actually think that it was right to do so; (3) why some people in this country hate our own language and flag so much.
By Alex Deane