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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

Media Coverage – January 2010

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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.

DNA database postcode lottery

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in DNA database | 3 Comments

As reported by the BBC and Times this morning, the Conservatives have revealed the full extent of the "shambles" that is the police approach to removing innocent people from the the DNA database.

According to the reports:

Some police forces refuse to remove any records once a case is closed and the person declared innocent, while others comply with 80 per cent of requests for deletion.

The figures show South Yorkshire Police are most likely to delete DNA, with 83 per cent of requests granted, followed by Cumbria with 78 per cent and Cleveland with 70 per cent.

Other forces including Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire refused to remove any profiles.

Big Brother Watch opposes the retention of the DNA of innocent people as a matter of principle, but these figures just further shame the government's approach to the DNA database.

By Dylan Sharpe

Further evidence of council CCTV failure

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in CCTV | 5 Comments

When Big Brother Watch released our first report earlier this month – a study into the huge number of council controlled CCTV cameras - we condemned the enormous rise of almost 200% in 10 years for several reasons.

Among these reasons was the issue of councils spending large sums to get the CCTV installed, often to placate their residents, but then switching the cameras off if they find the budget is stretched, or failing to upgrade the technology when it breaks or the image quality is found wanting.

It is therefore with little surprise that we see that today the Lincolnshire Echo is reporting that a quarter of the CCTV cameras controlled by Lincolnshire Council are currently not working.

While this news is disturbing and disappointing, Big Brother Watch hopes that our report has perhaps encouraged a few more people to question the problems surrounding CCTV. 

When the cameras aren't working we get the worst of both worlds – they don't catch or solve crimes, and the police who rely on them leave the relevant areas un-patrolled with false confidence.

By Dylan Sharpe 

Media Coverage – 28th December 2009

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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 Express20,000 state snoopers who can walk into your homes

Conservative Home – Caroline Spelman MP repeats Tory promise to abolish council tax inspectors’ right to enter private homes

Western Mail – Conwy near top of 'Big Brother Barge-In League'

Hull Daily Mail – No warrant needed to enter homes

A full list of our media coverage is available here.

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.

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

Holding Page

Want your children to have school dinners? Surrender their fingerprints

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Home | 9 Comments

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.

Judge imprisons a man despite openly expressing his own doubts about the conviction

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Legal Action | 4 Comments

Scales Now that our CCTV report has been published, I am catching up on various stories from the past few weeks.  One that you may have already seen is this, over at the Times.

Philip Bowles, a businessman, has been imprisoned for an apparent failure to pay over £1 million in VAT. So far, so fair enough.  But the plot thickens.

Bowles lived with his assets frozen for three years, reliant on legal aid to help him fund his defence.  In those three years, access to his firm's records (vital to establish the defence) was hampered by this, and also by the fact that the firm was in administration.  So a vital report from a forensic accountancy investigation into his affairs, compiled gratis by a neutral accountancy firm, was not ready until after he was convicted on one of the three counts his faced.

The report concluded that, rather than having cheated the Revenue, Bowles had in fact overpaid.

Whilst the document was not available for the trial, was available by the time that it came to sentence this man.  His QC submitted that this vital new evidence, unseen by the jury, was so significant that the Court of Appeal ought to hear about it before Bowles was sentenced.  This is without precedent, but it must be right, mustn't it?  The material was relevant and probative and ought to have been seen by the jury in the course of the trial.  It is expert, neutral evidence, pointing directly to the innocence of the convicted man.  It has emerged late through no fault of the defendant's.

For those reasons, as you can read about over at the Times, the Judge openly expressed concerns about putting a man “in a place where he should not be if he is not guilty”, saying “I am loath to let this matter drag on but equally I am loath to put a man in prison if he shouldn’t be there."  And yet he nevertheless went on to sentence Bowles to custody, and he is now in prison.  The Judge, acting – I must stress – entirely in accordance with established rules, protocols, procedures and precedent, sentenced him to imprisonment, pending his now-inevitable appeal.

Behind the eye-catching headline about the judge's doubts, this may at first glance seem to be a narrow or technical question about when and how one can appeal one's conviction and/or sentence.  But it's one that has enormous ramifications for the individual in such a position – indeed, it has meant the difference for this man (who has no previous convictions) between being at liberty and being in prison.  As he spends Christmas behind bars, to him and his family that distinction will not seem narrow or technical at all.

Until his case is heard in the Court of Appeal, this 60 year old businessman with no previous convictions will be incarcerated at our expense rather than out and earning and supporting his family.  One must ask, in the circumstances – to what end?

I in no way mean to take a cheap crack at the justice system in which I have worked for some years but it seems to me that a legal system that lacks the flexibility properly to reflect the discovery or production of significant new evidence is a system in which the relationship between the state and its rigid procedures and the individual is unbalanced.  It is a system in which the very serious power to deny an individual his liberty is not fettered by appropriate caution and governed by good sense as it properly should be.  It is a system in need of reform.

By Alex Deane

Out of the DNA database and into the PNC

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in Databases, DNA database | 2 Comments

Public Service has reported on an investigation from The Observer that reveals that any innocent person who is able to get their DNA profile deleted from the national database, will still have their details stored on the Police National Computer (PNC).

PNC According to the report,

Prior to the expansion of the DNA database, details were deleted on acquittal or if charges were dropped after 42 days. But according to the NDNAD's annual report in 2005 it has become necessary "to retain a nominal record of every person arrested for a recordable offence on the Police National Computer". The report said this would help police identify and locate people in their investigations.

This yet another example of the state's ever-present desire to gather as much information on its citizens as possible. Innocent people should not be on any police database, regardless of how useful or expedient having that data might be. Remember – you own your data. Not the state.

In addition, the PNC can be accessed by several thousands of police officers across the UK - with the capability for the data to be accessed by police forces in Europe, America and beyond – which makes it even less secure than the DNA database.

Big Brother Watch is concerned about the degree to which law enforcement is sliding towards guilty until proven innocent; and the repercussions we are witnessing for schemes like CCTV expansion, ID cards and state databases.

By Dylan Sharpe

Ireland debates the creation of a DNA database

Posted on by Big Brother Watch Posted in DNA database | Leave a comment

Ireland-flag_1 The debate over Ireland's proposed creation of a DNA database (plans for which are in advanced stage now) is covered on various news sites, with discussion of the compulsory nature of sample collection.

Given the experience of the database in the UK, containing samples from one in ten of us and with samples from a million innocent people on it, one can only point our Irish friends to the British experience as a strong example that suggests they should pause before committing themselves to this plan further.

By Alex Deane