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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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Mass Gathering in defence of street photography - 12 Noon Saturday 23rd January 2010 Trafalgar Square, London

Posted by James Hammerton @ 9:33 pm on 20 December, 2009.
Categories democracy and the rule of law, British politics, culture of suspicion.
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Spy Blog reports:

The I’m a Photographer Not A Terrorist ! campaign is organising a

Mass Gathering in defence of street photography

12 Noon
Saturday 23rd January 2010
Trafalgar Square

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! invite all Photographers to a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography.

Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed police detaining an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering campaigning santas at City Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral and many others. PHNAT feels now is the time for a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws.

Trafigura gags the BBC

Posted by James Hammerton @ 2:26 pm on 19 December, 2009.
Categories freedom of speech, British politics.
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Richard Wilson writes:

Late last week the BBC chose to delete from its website a damning Newsnight investigation into the Trafigura scandal, following legal threats from the company and its controversial lawyers, Carter-Ruck.

Previously, other media outlets including the Times and the Independent, had withdrawn stories about the case, amid concerns that the UK press is choosing to engage in self-censorship, rather than risk a confrontation with such a powerful company in the UK’s archaic and one-sided libel courts.

The BBC is a dominant player within the UK media, and its independence – supposedly guaranteed by the millions it receives from licence-payers each year – is vital both to its public service function and its global reputation.

Freedom of speech means very little without an effective and independent media – if it’s true that the BBC’s independence can so easily be compromised by legal threats, then this sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.

The mainstream UK media has so far assiduously avoided reporting on the BBC’s climbdown. Yet it’s an issue that raises serious questions about the state of press freedom in Britain, at a time of unprecedented attacks on the media.

To help subvert this latest attempt to muzzle the press, please embed this video on your blog, and link to this PDF of the original story.


CCTV cameras pointing at people’s homes

Posted by James Hammerton @ 12:37 pm on .
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics.
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Big Brother Watch has been covering the issue of CCTV recently and in particular has highlighted two examples of CCTV cameras that are clearly pointed at people’s homes. Still, nothing to hide, nothing to fear eh?!

Libel reform campaign petition

Posted by James Hammerton @ 5:57 pm on 13 December, 2009.
Categories freedom of speech, British politics.
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A petition for reforming England’s libel laws has been created by the Libel Reform Campaign. I’ve already signed it, I urge others to do so too.

ISA vetting to be watered down

The BBC reports:

Rules requiring about 11 million people working with children to register with a new agency and have criminal records checks are to be watered down.

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has accepted recommendations of a review he ordered into the vetting and barring scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The checks will now involve only those working with the same children once a week, not once a month, for example.

It is thought the new rules will apply to about two million fewer people.

The checks, intended to protect children, had caused concern among teachers and parents.

This will of course still leave the ISA deciding who can work with children on the basis not merely of people’s criminal records but also “soft intelligence” such as unproven accusations. Even under the revised figures, 9 million adults may find themselves being subject to such vetting.

Tories: We’ll review control orders

Posted by James Hammerton @ 3:50 pm on 6 December, 2009.
Categories democracy and the rule of law, British politics.
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According to the Press Association:

Shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said: “Control orders deny due process to the defendant, do not provide a reliable remedy to the security problem posed by terrorist suspects, and on top of all that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“A Conservative government would review the morally objectionable and costly control order regime with a view, consistent with the security situation, to replacing it by the trial of suspects through the normal court system.”

UK jails schizophrenic for refusal to decrypt files

The Register recently reported:

The first person jailed under draconian UK police powers that Ministers said were vital to battle terrorism and serious crime has been identified by The Register as a schizophrenic science hobbyist with no previous criminal record.

His crime was a persistent refusal to give counter-terrorism police the keys to decrypt his computer files.

The 33-year-old man, originally from London, is currently held at a secure mental health unit after being sectioned while serving his sentence at Winchester Prison.

The Eurostar terminal at St Pancras

In June the man, JFL, who spoke on condition we do not publish his full name, was sentenced to nine months imprisonment under Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The powers came into force at the beginning of October 2007.

New guidelines issued in using stop and search against photographers

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:43 pm on 5 December, 2009.
Categories democracy and the rule of law, British politics, accountability, culture of suspicion.
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Is Britain’s war on photography going to ease? The Independent reports:

Police forces across the country have been warned to stop using anti-terror laws to question and search innocent photographers after The Independent forced senior officers to admit that the controversial legislation is being widely misused.

The strongly worded warning was circulated by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) last night. In an email sent to the chief constables of England and Wales’s 43 police forces, officers were advised that Section 44 powers should not be used unnecessarily against photographers. The message says: “Officers and community support officers are reminded that we should not be stopping and searching people for taking photos. Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional, is unacceptable.”

3 studies of CCTV in Scotland suggest many failings

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:34 pm on .
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics.
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Update: The Scottish Government’s analysis at their website.

The Herald reports:

Three separate reports on CCTV were published yesterday, with the Scottish Government’s own analysis concluding that an “urgent” review of funding of the ageing systems was required.

There are more than 2225 public space cameras in Scotland. Glasgow has the highest concentration with 408, compared to 150 in Edinburgh.

Further research found that it will cost an extra £7 million to maintain CCTV provision in Scotland over the next three years. More than one third (38%) of cameras are over eight years old, with the lifespan of cameras typically seven to 10 years.

The report from the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research said: “Funding for existing CCTV systems across Scotland should be urgently reviewed. Aside from advancing digital technology, across Scotland several CCTV systems are becoming technologically obsolete or beyond economical repair.”

Government research noted the value of CCTV to the police and the strong public support of the cameras are often seen as the “panacea” to problems of crime and anti-social behaviour.

However, a separate paper on the impact of CCTV on crime found there was “minimal” evidence that CCTV effectively deters crime, with convicted offenders suggesting cameras were not perceived as a threat, particularly in situations fuelled by alcohol.

Shoplifting and vehicle theft were the crimes most prevented by cameras, with the deterrent effect less likely in city centres.

Virgin Media to trial filesharing monitoring system • The Register

Posted by James Hammerton @ 6:34 pm on 29 November, 2009.
Categories privacy and surveillance, British politics.
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Virgin Media to trial filesharing monitoring system reports the Register:

Virgin Media will trial deep packet inspection technology to measure the level of illegal filesharing on its network, but plans not to tell the customers whose traffic will be examined.

The system, CView, will be provided by Detica, a BAE subsidiary that specialises in large volume data collection and processing, and whose traditional customers are the intelligence agencies and law enforcement.

The trial will cover about 40 per cent of Virgin Media’s network, a spokesman said, but those involved will not be informed. “It would be counter-productive because it doesn’t affect customers directly,” he said.

CView will operate at the centre of Virgin Media’s network on aggregate traffic, the spokesman emphasised, and seek only to determine the proportion of filesharing traffic that infringes copyright.

The system will look at traffic and identify the peer-to-peer packets. In a step beyond how ISPs currently monitor their networks, it will then peer inside those packets and try to determine what is licensed and what is unlicensed, based on data provided by the record industry.

This is analogous to the post office opening and reading random letters and parcels to see if any copyrighted material is being illegally distributed across the postal network.

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