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This page provides occasional items, linked to the original articles, as we attempt to keep up with the rapidly changing situation on civil liberties.
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Britons to be spied on, without judicial supervision, by foreign police

Posted by James Hammerton @ 2:12 pm on 26 July, 2010.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, accountability, European Union politics.
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The Telegraph reports:

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will today announce she plans to sign up to the so-called European Investigation Order (EIO), The Daily Telegraph understands.

It comes despite concerns by fair trial campaigners and has angered backbench Tories.

It raises the prospect of personal details of individuals being passed on without their knowledge in the most minor of cases, such as leaving a restaurant without paying.

Foreign police officers would also be able to come to the UK and work alongside police here in investigating individuals, although they would not have any powers of arrest.

The EIO is designed to help law enforcement agencies in EU states share information and be more effective in combating cross border crime.

But Fair Trials International (FTI) said it could result in disproportionate requests, such as demands for the DNA of plane loads of British holidaymakers following a murder in a resort they had visited.

A report by FTI said: “This could include requests to interview suspects or witnesses or obtain information in real time, by intercepting and monitoring telephone or email communications or by monitoring activity in bank accounts.

“States could also be required to obtain or analyse DNA samples or fingerprints and send the information to the issuing state within fixed deadlines.”

Police would not be able to argue that the request or alleged offence being investigated is disproportionate.

Previous examples of minor criminal offences already pursued around Europe include a carpenter who fitted wardrobe doors and then removed them when the client refused to pay him and the Polish authorities requesting the extradition of a suspect for theft of a dessert.

Big Brother Watch have also covered this issue. Note that there will be no judicial oversight and such surveillance may be performed for “crimes” which are not recognised in Britain.

Big Brother is watching your car journeys

Big Brother Watch, via a FOI request made by HMP Britain, have found that 7.6 billion journeys have been logged by Britain’s Automated Number Plate Recognition camera network. In response to a question about how long the data is retained for the reply stated:

ANPR read data is stored only for as long as is operationally necessary and not routinely more than two years.

Be careful what you tweet in jest or frustration

Posted by James Hammerton @ 5:39 pm on 6 June, 2010.
Categories freedom of speech, British politics, culture of suspicion.
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David Mery reports on the case of Paul Chambers who tweeted “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!” in frustration at the possible disruption to his travel plans. This resulted in him being fined £1000.

Don’t leave your car window open…

…in case it gets removed by the police and they demand £150 for its return.

If I tried to do what the police did here, it’d be regarded as theft now matter how insecure the car was. Which begs the question: Why should it not be regarded as theft when the police do it?

How the NHS built a DNA database by confusing information capture and retention

Posted by James Hammerton @ 5:15 pm on .
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics.
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David Mery explains how the NHS has built up a DNA database of newborn children by confusing the issue of (and consent for) taking samples of blood for medical tests with the issue of subsequent long-term retention of those samples.

Guardian: Surveillance cameras in Birmingham track Muslims’ every move

The Guardian reports:

Counterterrorism police have targeted hundreds of surveillance cameras on two Muslim areas of Birmingham, enabling them to track the precise movements of people entering and leaving the neighbourhoods.

The project has principally been sold to locals as an attempt to combat antisocial behaviour, vehicle crime and drug dealing in the area. But the cameras have been paid for by a £3m grant from a government fund, the Terrorism and Allied Matters Fund, which is administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

About 150 automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) cameras have been installed in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook in recent months. Birmingham’s two predominantly Muslim suburbs will be covered by three times more ANPR cameras than are used to monitor the entire city centre. They include about 40 cameras classed as “covert”, meaning they have been concealed from public view.

Coalition performs u-turn on the Summary Care Record

See this report from Big Brother Watch and this article from Heresy Corner.

Some recent freedom of speech stories

Posted by James Hammerton @ 10:53 pm on 15 May, 2010.
Categories freedom of speech, British politics.
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Update: This story also highlights how far freedom of speech has been weakened. The police barged into a man’s house and handcuffed him in order to remove a poster he had up in his window calling David Cameron a “wanker”.

Freedom of speech was attacked by the previous Labour government in various ways, both of the following stories illustrates the legacy they’ve left on this issue:

A man was given an ASBO, community service and a suspended jail sentence for putting leaflets mocking Jesus, the Pope and Islam in an airport prayer room.

A christian preacher was arrested for claiming that homosexuality is a sin.

In both cases, it seems to me that merely saying something or distributing literature that someone takes offence to is being punished. I may disagree with the views being expressed here, but the individuals concerned should have the right to peacefully express those views to anyone willing to listen.

The new coalition government has promised to review libel laws to protect freedom of speech. They should also review the public order legislation to protect the right to peaceful expression of one’s views.

Britain’s coalition government promises to strengthen civil liberties

From Section 10 of the coalition agreement between the Tories and the Liberal Democrats:

The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database.
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury.
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest.
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech.
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation.
  • Further regulation of CCTV.
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason.
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

If they’re as good as their word, this will be a promising start to ending and reversing the onslaught on civil liberties Britain has seen over the last 15 to 20 years or so.

Labour’s misleading claims on DNA

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:22 pm on 11 April, 2010.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics, the database state.
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Over at my personal blog, I cover Labour’s misleading claims about the DNA database and plans to restrict the retention of DNA of those arrested but never convicted of an offence.

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