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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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2002 - 2004

1st Jan to 9th Sept 2005

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

Posted by James Hammerton @ 5:15 pm on 6 June, 2010.
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.

Proposal for Royal Mail to intercept mail on behalf of HMRC

Henry Porter comments on these proposals:

The last days of this dreadful government are being accompanied by an attack on rights and privacy that seems unprecedented during Labour’s 13-year rule.

The government is now drawing up plans to amend the Postal Services Act to allow tax inspectors to intercept and open people’s mail before it is delivered. Given the state’s ambitions to collect all communications data this is hardly surprising, but we must ask ourselves how many more rights are seized by government and its agencies before Britain becomes the GDR’s most obvious European imitator.

Currently postal workers have the right to intercept suspicious letters and packages and pass them to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and then at an agreed moment the item is opened in front of the addressee. The change in the law will mean that HMRC will be able to open whatever it likes without the addressee being present or being made aware of the interception.

As usual, the government and HMRC public relations people underplay the wide-ranging and dangerous nature of this proposal by insisting that the new measure is simply designed to deal with the problem of tobacco smuggling. But the change, disclosed in a document published with the budget, means that HMRC will be able to trawl through private mail pretty much at will.

Britain’s Stasi state rolls on…

Interesting article on stop and search

Our Kingdom have written an excellent overview of the use of and legal battles over the stop and search powers from Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

Tory Peer in bid to limit officials’ right to entry homes « James Hammerton’s Blog

Tory Peer, Lord Selsdon, has launched a bill to limit the right of officials to enter homes. See my personal blog for more details.

There is no need to retain the DNA profiles of all arrestees

Over at my personal blog, I argue that Gordon Brown is wrong to use the Jeremiah Sheridan case to justify retention of those arrested, but not convicted of a crime.

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