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Liberty News

2009: Jan-March

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29th March   

Update: No Right to Travel...

Personal details to be logged to travel to the Isle of Wight
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

Passengers on ferries to the Isle of Wight and Scottish islands such as Mull and Skye will soon have to carry identity papers to comply with new police powers.

And travellers flying between British cities or to Northern Ireland face having their personal data logged when booking tickets and checking in.

Until now ferry passengers on most routes in Britain have not been required to produce ID and internal flight passengers only face random police checks.

But under new Government security rules that will come into force next year, personal data, including name, date of birth and home address, will be typed into a computer record for the police by the booking clerk or travel agent.

Under the new powers, police will be able to track the movements of around 60million domestic passengers a year. The controversial measures were due to be introduced two years ago, but were dropped after protests from Ulster politicians, who said the plan would construct ‘internal borders' in the UK.

But last week the Government used the release of its anti-terrorism strategy to quietly reintroduce them. Buried on Page 113 of the 174-page ‘CONTEST' document was the announcement of new police powers to collect advanced passenger data on some domestic air and sea journeys.

Last night a Home Office spokesman confirmed the measures would require passengers to show photo ID, such as a driving licence or the (proposed) Government ID cards, when booking tickets for domestic air and sea journeys.

He added that ferry journeys to the Isle of Wight or the Isle of Skye and private jet passengers would be included in the new measures, due to be formally announced later this year. The powers will be introduced using a so-called statutory instrument signed off by the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, without the need for a full debate in the House of Commons.


28th March   

Update: Twenty Thousand Snoops...

Councils using surveillance powers for trivial reasons
Link Here
Full story: Council Snooping...Concil snooping for trivial reasons

Councils have abused powers designed to stop terrorists to launch more than 20,000 covert spying operations into everything from stealing fairy lights to the illegal sale of crabs, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that thousands of council staff have been authorised to use anti-terrorism powers to covertly keep watch on people.

Some councils used the powers to see of a staff member was working while off sick or checked whether a claimant's partner is living at an address.

The Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (Ripa) was originally introduced by the Government to help in the fight against terrorism.

The powers to spy on other people were introduced in 2000 and were extended in 2003 to 795 bodies have been given the right to use the powers, including councils in Britain.

A survey of 400 councils in England and Wales by the Liberal Democrats using the FOI Act found that many of them were using the powers to investigate trivial misdemeanours. In the study, 182 local authorities admitting employing 1,615 staff who had used the powers 10,133 times in the past five years. If the figures are extrapolated for all 400 councils in England and Wales, it would mean that 3,600 staff have spied on local people 22,000 times since 2004. The study found that less than one in 10 of spying missions resulted in a prosecution, caution or fixed penalty notice.

Across the 180 councils, the spying powers were mostly used to tackle benefit fraud (1,782 times), noise nuisance (942 times) and trading standards breaches (734 times). However the powers were also used on 451 investigations into fly-tipping investigations and on 88 cases of unlawful dog fouling.


27th March   

Update: The Face of Big Brother...

A clear network of friends is way too tempting for Government snoops
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Millions of Britons who use social networking sites such as Facebook could soon have their every move monitored by the Government and saved on their "Big Brother" database monstrosity.

The idea to police MySpace, Bebo and Facebook comes on top of plans to store information about every phone call, email and internet visit made by everyone in the United Kingdom. Almost half the British population – some 25 million people – are thought to use social networking sites.

The use of social networking sites has boomed in the last few years so Vernon Coaker, the Home Office minister, has disclosed that social networking sites could be forced to retain information about users' web-browsing habits. They could be required to hold data about every person users correspond with via the sites, although the contents of messages sent would not be collected. Coaker said: Social networking sites, such as MySpace or Bebo, are not covered by the directive. That is one reason why the Government are looking at what we should do about the intercept modernisation programme because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive.

Facebook boasts 17 million Britons as members. Bebo, which caters mainly for teenagers and young adults, has more than 10 million users. A similar number of music fans are thought to use MySpace.

Isabella Sankey, policy director at Liberty, said: Even before you throw Facebook and other social networking sites into the mix, the proposed central communications database is a terrifying prospect. It would allow the Government to record every email, text message and phone call and would turn millions of innocent Britons into permanent suspects.

Richard Clayton, a computer security expert at Cambridge University, said: What they are doing is looking at who you communicate with and who your friends are, which is greatly intrusive into your private life.

Chris Kelly, Facebook's chief privacy officer, said yesterday that it was considering lobbying ministers over the proposal, which he called overkill.


14th March   

Update: Prison Island...

UK e-borders database monstrosity gets ever more expansive
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

The travel plans and personal details of every traveller who leaves Britain are to be tracked by the Government, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Anyone departing the UK by land, sea or air will have their trip recorded and stored on a database for a decade.

Passengers leaving every international sea port, station or airport will have to supply detailed personal information as well as their travel plans. So-called booze crusiers who cross the Channel for a couple of hours to stock up on wine, beer and cigarettes will be subject to the rules.

In addition, weekend sailors and sea fishermen will be caught by the system if they plan to travel to another country - or face the possibility of criminal prosecution.

The owners of light aircraft will also be brought under the system, known as e-borders, which will eventually track 250 million journeys annually.

Even swimmers attempting to cross the Channel and their support teams will be subject to the rules which will require the provision of travellers' personal information such as passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact travel plans.

The full extent of the impact of the government's e-borders scheme emerged amid warnings that passengers face increased congestion as air, rail and ferry companies introduce some of the changes over the Easter holidays.

95%of people leaving the country being subject to the plans by the end 2010. Yachtsmen, leisure boaters, trawlermen and private pilots will be given until 2014 to comply with the programme.

They will be expected to use the internet to send their details each time they leave the country and would face a fine of up to £5,000 should they fail to do so. Similar penalties will be enforced on airlines, train and ship operators if they fail to provide details of every passenger to the UK Border Agency.

In most cases the information will be expected to be provided 24 hours ahead of travel and will then be stored on a Government database for around ten years.

Britain is not the only country to require such information from travel operators. The USA also demands the same information be supplied from passengers wishing to visit America. But the scale of the scheme has alarmed civil liberties campaigners.

Your travel data is much more sensitive than you might think, Phil Booth of the privacy group, NO2ID said: Given that for obvious reasons we're encouraged not to put our home address on our luggage labels, and especially given the Government's appalling record on looking after our data, it just doesn't seem sensible for it to pass details like this and sensitive financial information around.

Ferry firms and Eurostar - who, unlike airlines, do not gather such detailed passenger information - have also raised concerns about the impact on passengers and warned the plans may not even be legal under EU law. The changes would mean that Eurostar, Eurotunnel and ferry companies will now have to demand passport details from passengers at the time of booking, along with the credit card information and email address which they would have taken at the time of the reservation.


11th March   

Update: Police Burglars...

Australia to extend police powers for searching homes and computers
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

Police in New South Wales may be given authority to search homes and hack into people's computers for as long as three years without their knowledge.

The Australian government has already enacted similar practices, though its Supreme Court ruled such searches illegal in 2006.

New legislation to expand investigative powers was introduced last week in the Australia Parliament by Minister Nathan Rees. The measures allow police to apply for cover search warrants in order to gather evidence in what are deemed as serious crimes, according to ZDNet.

The laws allow for the search of computers and computers networks related to the site of a search. Rees said police will be allowed remote access to computers for five days up to a total of 28 days, with possible extended periods beyond that time, depending on an investigation.

Critics are calling the legislation much too broad, but law enforcement insists secrecy will keep criminals in the dark.

Police Minister Tony Kelly explained each application must go before a Supreme Court judge, who would initially OK secret investigations for as long as six months, but police could apply for delays as long as 18 months and even three years, pending the nature of the case.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman is among those opposing the law, reports Clearly, if the police are able to search a person's home without anyone being present, the police will be in the position to plant evidence. That's a big worry. This particular announcement extends police powers hugely without putting in any checks and balances against those powers being abused.

The laws will apply to offences punishable by at least seven years in jail, including statutes applying to homicide, kidnapping, assault, drugs, firearms, money laundering, hacking, organized theft and corruption.


8th March   

Update: Coroner's Inquest...

Straw kills of his data sharing proposals for a while
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Jack Straw has scrapped government proposals that could have allowed patients' medical and DNA records to be shared with police, foreign governments and other bodies.

In a victory for civil liberties campaigners, the justice secretary bowed to public pressure over the data-sharing provisions in the forthcoming coroners' bill, which would have allowed public bodies to exchange data without the knowledge or consent of individuals involved. Doctors and the Bar Council had joined privacy campaigners in warning of the potential risks to public trust.

The move will be seen as an olive branch to Labour MPs concerned about what they see as the erosion of civil liberties, and will raise eyebrows at Westminster where Straw is viewed as a potential future leadership contender.

He will now launch a fresh public consultation on how to implement more limited proposals from a review chaired by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, which would allow government bodies to share information where there is clear benefit - for example, to ensure that bereaved families do not have to contact a string of official agencies to tell them someone has died.

Update: Formally Dropped

18th March 2009. See article from

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, formally dropped proposals yesterday in which personal data, from DNA and medical records to tax and other information, would be shared across Whitehall departments, police and other public bodies.

The Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, David Howarth, said: "I am relieved that the Government has finally seen sense and scrapped these extraordinarily broad and dangerously ill-thought-out provisions."


8th March   

We Protest...

Police maintain searchable database of protestors
Link Here

Police are targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years, an investigation by the Guardian can reveal.

Photographs, names and video ­footage of people attending protests are ­routinely obtained by surveillance units and stored on an intelligence system. The Metropolitan police, which has pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended.

Police surveillance teams are also targeting journalists who cover demonstrations, and are believed to have, monitored members of the press during at least eight protests over the last year.

Lawyers said they expect the Guardian's investigation to form the basis of a legal challenge against the use of police surveillance tactics.

Liberty, the human rights group, is challenging the police surveillance tactics in a judicial review at the court of appeal. But police appear not to have disclosed to the court that they were transferring private details of campaigners to a database.

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty's legal officer, said: A searchable database containing photographs of people who are not even suspected of criminal activity may well violate privacy rights under article 8 of the Human Rights Act. It is particularly worrying if peaceful protesters are being singled out for surveillance.


7th March   

Database of Privacy Abusing Companies...

Information Commission targets blacklisting database
Link Here

More than 40 major British companies face legal action for allegedly buying secret personal data about thousands of workers they wanted to vet before employing them.

The information commissioner, Richard Thomas, will today publish a list of the companies he believes may have broken data protection laws, after an investigation by his office that was sparked by fears that many workers were being unfairly blacklisted.

The commissioner alleges that the firms, including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O'Rourke and Costain, have, for many years, covertly bought details of workers' trade union activities and their conduct at work.

Thomas believes that workers have been unfairly denied employment because they have had no chance of challenging any inaccurate information, some of which has been stored for decades.

The commissioner has already taken action rapidly to close down a private investigator who is accused of clandestinely compiling an extensive intelligence database of 3,000 workers with details that stretch back to the 1980s.

The commissioner is to prosecute the private detective, Ian Kerr, who is accused of selling the information to companies in the construction industry when they wanted to vet potential staff. Thomas said he had seized documents which, he says, show that files on individuals included comments such as communist party , ex-shop steward, definite problems, no go, do not touch , orchestrated strike action and lazy and a trouble-stirrer.

David Smith, the deputy information commissioner, said: This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. Not only was personal information held on individuals without their knowledge or consent, but the very existence of the database was repeatedly denied.


5th March   

Gambling on a Loss of Privacy...

Bank payment details used to disqualify gamblers from getting mortgages
Link Here

  Lovely little filly.
A sure thing at 3/1.
You can put you
 mortgage on it!

The Irish Times says that banks are starting their own form of censorship on Irish online gamblers by rejecting their mortgage applications.

Irish banks are apparently not happy about approving mortages for online gamblers, no matter whether you enjoy an occasional flutter on the horses or play bingo online at the weekends; if it shows on your bank statement you might find yourself on the reject pile when it comes to buying a new home.

A spokesman for the Independent Mortgages Advisers Federation (IMAF), Michael Dowling, told the Irish Times that banks looked at online betting in a very negative light. He said that signs of online gambling on a bank statement don't mean an automatic disqualification, however it is one of the criteria applied when reviewing mortgage applications.

The banks will never admit it, but it is... being discussed, said Dowling. Banks are paying a lot more attention to bank statements now... and if they see even 150 Euro going into an online gambling account each month they frown on it.


4th March   

Update: Doctors Sick of New Labour...

BMA warns the government data sharing will erode trust in doctor-patient relationships
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Doctors have condemned a Big Brother scheme to give the public sector and private companies much wider access to personal medical records.

Eight organisations, including the British Medical Association and the medical royal colleges, have protested against it. They have written a letter to oppose a proposed law that would make it easier for the Government to share data.

They are demanding that medical records be exempt from provisions in Jack Straw's Coroners and Justice Bill. The signatories have asked for a meeting with the Justice Secretary and expressed grave concerns about a clause of the Bill.

This clause appears to grant the Government unprecedented powers to access confidential medical records - and even share them with third parties. Ministers would simply be able to sign an order, allowing their department to share data.

The BMA argues much of the at-risk data could be used by medical researchers, potentially in the pay of drugs companies. In their letter, the protesting bodies said that the new powers would undermine the presumption of confidentiality, corrode trust in the doctor-patient relationship and could have a disastrous impact on both the health of individuals and the public.

It went on to state that the Bill could result in patients withholding information or even avoiding the healthcare system altogether.


3rd March   

Updated: Hacking Skype...

Skype is thwarting police wire tapping
Link Here

Suspicious phone conversations on Skype could be targeted for tapping as part of a pan-European battle against what law authorities believe is a massive technical loophole in current wiretapping laws, allowing criminals to communicate without fear of being overheard by the police.

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is understood to believe that suspected terrorists use Skype to circumvent detection.

While the police can get a court order to tap a suspect's land line and mobile phone, it is currently impossible to get a similar order for Internet calls on both sides of the Atlantic.

Eurojust, a European Union agency responsible for coordinating judicial investigations across different jurisdictions announced Friday the opening of an investigation involving all 27 countries of the European Union. The purpose of Eurojust's coordination role is to overcome the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of Internet telephony systems, Eurojust said.

The investigation is being headed by Eurojust's Italian representative, Carmen Manfredda. Police officers in Milan say organized crime, arms and drugs traffickers, and prostitution rings are turning to Skype and other systems of VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) telephony in order to frustrate investigators.

While telecommunications companies are obliged to comply with court orders to monitor calls on land lines and mobile phones, Skype' refuses to cooperate with the authorities,

In addition to the issue of cooperation, there are technical obstacles to tapping Skype calls. The way calls are set up and carried between computers is proprietary, and the encryption system used is strong. It could be possible to monitor the call on the originating or receiving computer using a specially written program, or perhaps to divert the traffic through a proxy server, but these are all far more difficult than tapping a normal phone. Calls between a PC and a regular telephone via the SkypeIn or SkypeOut service, however, could fall under existing wiretapping regulations and capabilities at the point where they meet the public telephone network.

The NSAis so concerned by Skype that it is offering hackers large sums of money to break its encryption, according to unsourced reports in the U.S.

Update: Maintaining the Doubt

Surely the public will never be told the truth on this issue. If the authorities can eavesdrop on Skype, they would prefer that people believed it was secure. If they can't eavesdrop then they would prefer that people believed it was insecure. Perhaps the circulation of the story of a secure Skype therefore suggests the former.

3rd March 2009. See article from

Eurojust - the EU body for judicial cooperation - is not investigating ways to intercept Skype calls, contrary to reports earlier this week. In a statement Eurojust said it held a meeting with Italian authorities in 2006 about a separate case.

The participants were informed of the technical and legal issues of the subject. Representatives from the company Skype S.A. were invited and present at this meeting. There was a positive message from the Skype representatives during the meeting, showing their commitment to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities in the fight against serious, cross-border organised crime.

So does that mean they're not investigating how to listen to Skype calls because they can already listen to Skype calls?


2nd March   

Update: Speeding to a Police State...

More CCTV cameras hooked into travel surveillance database
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

The police and MI5 have been given access to a network of infrared cameras that can track millions of car journeys across Britain.

The 1,090 cameras read numberplates of cars on all motorways and major trunk roads, recording the time, date and location of the vehicle and storing the data for five years.

The Highways Agency installed the bright green cameras supposedly to calculate journey times. But last week a senior agency official confirmed they are being linked to a police database.

Thousands of CCTV cameras across the country have also been converted to read numberplates – as have mobile cameras. Police helicopters can spot plates from the air and officers have live access to London's Congestion Charge cameras.

The database is central to an operation orchestrated by the Association of Chief Police Officers and backed by £32million of Government cash.

But privacy campaigners attacked the move. Simon Davies, of Privacy International, said: This is the latest layer in a plan to monitor people from the second they leave their front door to the moment they return. It is being constructed in secret.'


1st March   

The war on hypocrisy begins...

An extraordinary coalition unites to fight for our liberties.
Link Here

Writers, pop stars, lawyers and politicians from across the party spectrum yesterday issued a call to arms. They joined the largest ever campaign across Britain to warn of the erosion of freedoms and the emergence of surveillance techniques

The government and the courts are collaborating in slicing away freedoms and pushing Britain to the brink of becoming a database police state, a series of sold-out conferences in eight British cities heard.

In a day of speeches and discussions, academics, politicians, lawyers, writers, journalists and pop stars joined civil liberty campaigners yesterday to issue a call to arms for Britons to defend their democratic rights.

More than 1,500 people, paying £35 a ticket, attended the Convention on Modern Liberty in Bloomsbury, central London, which was linked by video to parallel events in Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Cambridge. They heard from more than 80 speakers, including author Philip Pullman; musicians Brian Eno and Feargal Sharkey; journalists Fatima Bhutto, Andrew Gilligan, Nick Cohen and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger; politicians Lord Bingham and Dominic Grieve; a former director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald; and human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy.

High on the concerns of the convention were the recent allegations against the British security services by Guantanamo Bay torture victim Binyam Mohamed, plans for ID cards, DNA collection databases and controversial surveillance powers being used by civil servants. In addition, concerns were high over Government plans to create a database of all the communications and movements of ordinary people as well as the proliferation of anti-terrorism laws including detention of suspects.

The Conservative MP David Davis, who resigned from the shadow cabinet in order to fight a byelection on a civil liberties platform, gave the final keynote speech of the day. He told the Observer that he believed the danger of a police state was a very real one and that justice secretary Jack Straw was leading a piecemeal and casual erosion of freedom in this country: but the mood is changing. Last year 80 per cent of people were in favour of ID cards, now 80 per cent are against. There's a point of reflection that we are reaching, the communications database which is planned to collect every private text and phone call and petrol station receipt will create uproar.

The Observer and Vanity Fair writer Henry Porter, who co-organised the conference, said he felt tremendously moved by the support shown by everyone who had attended the event or agreed to speak. I had been feeling like the lone lunatic wandering around Oxford Street with a placard and it's tremendously moving for me to see how many people share my concerns. The number of tickets, I'm told, could have been sold two or three times over. That has to show people really are thinking about these frightening issues quite seriously.

Institutional paranoia and furtive hatred

Based on article from

Philip Pullman, the best-selling children's author attacked the government for eroding civil liberties under the pretext of national security.

The author of the His Dark Materials trilogy accused ministers of creating a surveilliance society based on institutional paranoia and furtive hatred.

The author also criticised the government for failing to disclose minutes of crucial cabinent meetings in the run up to the war in Iraq in 2003. Last week Jack Straw, the justice secretary, vetoed a ruling by the Information Tribunal which had called for the minutes to be made public.

Whatever persuaded a minister of the Crown that it was honourable to conceal the truth about how this nation's cabinet decided to lead us to war? said Pullman.

Conference inspired by Jack Straw

Based on article from by Henry Porter

If there was one man who kept us going through the eight months of preparation and planning, it was not Cameron or Clegg, but justice secretary Jack Straw, now carving out a historic role for himself as one of the enemies of democracy and civil liberties in the United Kingdom. Any doubts we had along the way were overwhelmed by his Coroners and Justice Bill, which contains measures that introduce secret inquests and would lift the ban on data sharing between ministries in the Data Protection Act.

In an article for the Guardian last Friday, Straw attacked the convention. Despite the claims of a systematic erosion of liberty by those organising this weekend's Convention on Modern Liberty, my very good constituency office files show no recent correspondence relating to fears about the creation in Britain of a 'police state' or a 'surveillance society'. Failing to address Dame Stella Rimington's fears, he went on to claim that Labour had done more than any government to extend liberties and constrain government.

And this from a man who stood up in parliament last week to veto the publication of cabinet minutes on the decisions to go to war - no doubt to protect himself - and who has tabled amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill that would give ministers the power to retain data - DNA, CCTV footage etc - for as long as they like, which , among other things, goes against the recent European Court of Human Rights' judgment about the retention of innocent people's DNA.

He is, quite simply, without shame, a disgrace to his office and parliament.


27th February   

A Bill to Save our Liberties...

Lib Dems publish Freedom Bill
Link Here

There has always been a problem for civil libertarians. The sacrifices of freedoms made by successive governments often seem small, particularly when they are pushed through at times of panic about terrorism. Each time, the government argues that you only need to give up a modest amount of freedom or rights to win greater security. And what could be more free than life itself? Yet the cumulative effects of this salami-slicing have now become deeply corrosive to the free spirit of a civil society. Like some sci-fi horror movie, we are slowly becoming the authoritarian threat that we are fighting.

The Liberal Democrats are determined to resist the slow death by a thousand cuts of our hard-won British liberties. George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was a warning, not a blueprint. Yet the Big Brother society that he satirised is growing before our eyes. Our forebears who fought so hard for the rights we have had stripped away would be shocked at what we've lost.

That is why we have published our freedom bill, detailing how we intend to roll back the draconian laws passed by successive Labour and Conservative administrations. This draft bill is the first time a major political party has brought all of the laws which have undermined civil liberties together in one piece of legislation so that they can be easily repealed. We have called it the freedom bill because if the measures within it were all repealed, it would represent the greatest victory for freedom in Britain in the last 20 years.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the freedoms that have been lost in recent years. Sadly, there are too many. It is intended to be a starting point – to show people how much personal liberty has been stripped away by this government and the one before it. The freedom bill and the corresponding website is a consultative document designed to start a real dialogue, and give impetus to a movement that will lead to legislation soon after the next general election.

Our first draft of the freedom bill contains 20 measures to restore the fundamental rights that have been stripped away in recent years. We would:

  • Scrap ID cards for everyone, including foreign nationals.
  • Ensure that there are no restrictions in the right to trial by jury for serious offences including fraud.
  • Restore the right to protest in Parliament Square, at the heart of our democracy.
  • Abolish the flawed control orders regime.
  • Renegotiate the unfair extradition treaty with the United States.
  • Restore the right to public assembly for more than two people.
  • Scrap the ContactPoint database of all children in Britain.
  • Strengthen freedom of information by giving greater powers to the information commissioner and reducing exemptions.
  • Stop criminalising trespass.
  • Restore the public interest defence for whistleblowers.
  • Prevent allegations of "bad character" from being used in court.
  • Restore the right to silence when accused in court.
  • Prevent bailiffs from using force.
  • Restrict the use of surveillance powers to the investigation of serious crimes and stop councils snooping.
  • Restore the principle of double jeopardy in UK law.
  • Remove innocent people from the DNA database.
  • Reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days.
  • Scrap the ministerial veto that allowed the government to block the release of cabinet minutes relating to the Iraq war.
  • Require explicit parental consent for biometric information to be taken from children.
  • Regulate CCTV following a Royal Commission on cameras.


26th February   

Networking on Another Planet...

US proposes to require private networks to record internet users
Link Here

A proposed federal law would require all ISPs and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points — including hotels, local coffee shops, and home users — to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.

The Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today's Youth Act of 2009, or ISAFETY Act, was introduced by Representative Lamar Smith and Senator John Cornyn as H.R. 1076 and S. 436.

While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children, Cornyn said at a press conference: Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal and family level.

Both bills contains the same language, requiring that A provider of an electronic communication service or remote computing service shall retain for a period of at least two years all records or other information pertaining to the identity of a user of a temporarily assigned network address the service assigns to that user.

The act applies not just large ISPs but also to homes and businesses with Wi-Fi access points or wired routers that use the standard method of dynamically assigning temporary addresses known as Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, or DHCP.)

Under the Internet Safety Act, all of those would have to keep logs for at least two years. It covers every employer that uses DHCP for its network, said Albert Gidari, a partner at the Perkins Coie law firm in Seattle who specializes in electronic privacy law. It covers Aircell on airplanes — those little pico cells will have to store a lot of data for those in-the-air Internet users.


25th February   

A Losing Battle...

Liberty celebrates 75 years of campaigning
Link Here

75 years ago on the 24th February the human rights group Liberty (the National Council of Civil Liberties) was launched by a group of high profile figures of the day including HG Wells, Harold Laski, Vera Brittain and led by Ronald Kidd.

In a letter to the Manchester Guardian, it was announced that In view of the general and alarming tendency to encroachment on the liberty of the citizen, there has recently been formed a Council for Civil Liberties.

Leading figures from the worlds of Politics, the Arts and Academia have sent messages of congratulations and support to Liberty:

The work of Liberty is now even more important than it was when it was founded 75 years ago. The threats to our freedom come increasingly from state authoritarianism which now uses the war on terror as an excuse for doing so. Unless we stand against it we shall lose what we are being told we must defend. Tony Benn

We are bombarded with a variable menu of national anniversaries, commemorations, exhortations to be proud of Britain. But I find it harder to think of anything more worthy of celebration than the fact that since 1934, in spite of whatever else, somewhere in our country, the struggle to maintain civil liberties has been kept alive. Congratulations to Liberty on 75 years! Colin Firth

The tradition of civil liberties is fundamental to any civilised society, and Liberty has been protecting the rights of the individual since 1934. The battle is far from over. In an over-governed nation it has become fashionable to disregard individual liberties, both great and small. This makes the task of protecting freedom and privacy even more vital. I wish Liberty a very happy 75th birthday. Sir John Major

Human rights are not unlike the rainforest: they're very easy to tear down and they need understanding and protection. We all need the oxygen of Liberty and I wish them a very successful 75th anniversary! Emma Thompson

The struggle to defend and indeed to extend our civil liberties never ends. It has to embrace what is unpopular as well as what is popular. The information revolution poses new threats to privacy and individual freedom, the treatment of refugees and immigrants makes our commitment to tolerance and the rule of law unconvincing. Liberty has been an independent and fearless champion of our freedoms; congratulations on your birthday, you are badly needed now as 75 years ago when my mother was amongst those who set up the NCCL. Baroness Shirley Williams


23rd February   

Comment: Drunk on Power...

Government slip in bill to mandate CCTV in pubs
Link Here

Big Brother CCTV cameras are to be fitted inside shops and supermarkets on the orders of the state to keep track on anybody buying alcohol.

A law is being quietly pushed through Parliament giving councils the power to order licensed premises to fit the surveillance cameras. Pubs will also be covered.

The footage of people innocently buying a bottle of wine in a shop or a pint of beer in a bar must be stored for at least 60 days, and be handed over to the police on demand.

The measures form part of the Policing and Crime Bill, but have not been highlighted by Ministers. Under a code of conduct, which will be enforced by the Bill, any business that intends to sell alcohol will have to agree to install the cameras.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID privacy campaign, said: We are already a country with more CCTV cameras than anywhere else in the civilised world, but this law is systemising the surveillance of a nation. People will be treated like suspects wherever they go.

Earlier this week, the Mail revealed how police were warning pubs they would not support their licensing applications unless they agreed to train the intrusive cameras on their customers.

The first blanket policy has been introduced in the London borough of Islington, where all applicants wanting a licence to sell alcohol are being told they must fit CCTV.

Other forces are adopting similar tactics. But the planned new law goes much further, as it will allow councils – which ultimately hand out all licences – to insist on the CCTV cameras.

Home Office Minister Alan Campbell, who is piloting the CCTV measure through the Commons, recently admitted that he couldn't remember the last time he was in a pub.

Mark Hastings, spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association, said: It's an extraordinary admission from someone who is proposing measures that, on the Government's own admission, will cost the pub sector hundreds of millions of pounds a year. It shows how disconnected he is from the realities of what it's like trying to stay in business in the current environment.

Comment: Grade 1 Listed Prodnoses

23rd February 2009. Thanks to Alan

Haven't these absurd prodnoses got anything better to do?

What about the many pubs which are listed buildings, maybe unchanged for a century or more, that have got to have these things installed? Their appearance could be ruined.


13th February

 Offsite: Head and Shoulders Above the Law...

Link Here
Full story: CCTV for Pubs...Government dictating CCTV for pubs and off licences
UK Police are forcing publicans to install CCTV before approving their licences

See article from


12th February

 Offsite: Chiefs of Secret Policing...

Link Here
ACPO and the Confidential Intelligence Unit

See article from


11th February   

Mobile Fingerprinting...

Mexico to establish fingerprint database of mobile phone users
Link Here

Mexico will start a national register of mobile phone users that will include fingerprinting all customers.

Under a new law due to be in force in April, mobile phone companies will have a year to build up a database of their clients, complete with fingerprints. The idea would be to match calls and messages to the phones' owners.

Politicians who pushed the bill through Congress last year say there are around 700 criminal bands in Mexico, some of them operating from prison cells, that use cell phones to extract extortion and kidnap ransom payments.

Most of Mexico's 80 million mobile phones are prepaid handsets with a given number of minutes of use that can be bought in stores without any identification. The phones can be topped up with more minutes via vendors on street corners.

The register, detailed in the government's official gazette, means new subscribers will now be fingerprinted when they buy a handset or phone contract.

The plan also requires operators to store all cell phone information such as call logs, text and voice messages, for one year. Information on users and calls will remain private and only available with court approval to track down criminals.


9th February   

Extreme Policing...

Police set up Confidential Intelligence Unit
Link Here

A secret police intelligence unit has been set up to spy on Left-wing and Right-wing political groups.

The Confidential Intelligence Unit (CIU) has the power to operate across the UK and will mount surveillance and run informers on domestic extremists.

Its job is to build up a detailed picture of radical campaigners. Targets will include environmental groups involved in direct action such as Plane Stupid, whose supporters invaded the runway at Stansted Airport in December.

The unit also aims to identify the ring-leaders behind violent demonstrations such as the recent anti-Israel protests in London, and to infiltrate neo-Nazi groups, animal liberation groups and organisations behind unlawful industrial action such as secondary picketing.

The CIU's role will be similar to the counter subversion functions formerly carried out by MI5. The so-called reds under the bed operations focused on trade unionists and peace campaigners but were abandoned by MI5 to concentrate on Islamic terrorism.

The unit is being set up by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and will be based at Scotland Yard in Central London. An internal police job advertisement for the Head of Confidential Intelligence Unit, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, reveals key details of its wide-ranging powers.

The advert says the unit will work closely with Government departments, university authorities and private sector companies to remove the threat of criminality and public disorder that arises from domestic extremism. The CIU will also use legal proceedings to prevent details of its operations being made public.


8th February   

Update: Travel Watch...

UK to store all travel details in database
Link Here
Full story: Travel on CCTV...UK network of roadside traffic logging CCTVs

I hope you enjoyed your holiday in Pattaya.
Your teaching licence has now been revoked
on grounds of immorality

The government is building a database to track and hold the international travel records of all 60m Britons.

The intelligence centre will store names, addresses, telephone numbers, seat reservations, travel itineraries and credit card details for all 250m passenger movements in and out of the UK each year.

The computerised pattern of every individual's travel history will be stored for up to 10 years, the Home Office admits.

The government claims the new database, to be housed in an industrial estate in Wythenshawe, near Manchester, is essential in the fight against crime, illegal immigration and terrorism. However, opposition MPs, privacy campaigners and some government officials fear it is a significant step towards a total surveillance society.

Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said: The government seems to be building databases to track more and more of our lives. The justification is always about security or personal protection. But the truth is that we have a government that just can't be trusted over these highly sensitive issues. We must not allow ourselves to become a Big Brother society.

Some immigration officials with knowledge of the plans admit there is likely to be public concern. A lot of this stuff will have a legitimate use in the fight against crime and terrorism, but it's what else it could be used for that presents a problem, said one: It will be able to detect whether parents are taking their children abroad during school holidays. It could be useful to the tax authorities because it will tell them how long non-UK domiciled people are spending in the UK.

The Wythenshawe spy centre will house more than 300 police and immigration officers. A similar number of technicians will help check travellers' details against police, MI5, benefit agency and other government “watch lists”.

The database is the unpublicised part of the government's so-called e-borders programme, intended to count everyone who comes in and out of the country by 2014. At the moment the UK Border Agency is running a pilot which monitors the travel movements of passengers on high-risk routes from airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick.

Under the scheme, once a person buys a ticket to travel to or from the UK by air, sea or rail, the carrier will deliver that person's data to the agency. The data is then checked against various watchlists to identify those involved in abuse of UK immigration laws, serious and organised crime, and terrorism.


8th February   

Update: Class Watch...

Schools CCTV is judged intrusive and disproportionate
Link Here

Schools using CCTV cameras and microphones in classrooms to monitor pupils have been told they should be switched off.

Head teachers have been warned that putting children and teachers under constant surveillance is intrusive to privacy and a disproportionate way to tackle classroom pranksters.

Data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued the blunt assessment after investigating Classwatch, a firm that has set up classroom surveillance systems in at least 85 schools across the country.
classroom cctv schools

In its guidance the ICO said CCTV should be used only to investigate a serious assault and could only be used in exceptional circumstances. Constant filming and sound recording is unlikely to be acceptable unless there is a pressing need – for example, if there is an ongoing problem of assaults or criminal damage.

The ICO ruled that the use of classroom microphones to record conversations is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified. If a system comes equipped with a sound-recording facility, then it should be turned off.


8th February   

Update: Rudderless and Readerless...

No budget for ID card readers
Link Here
Full story: ID Cards in UK...UK introduces ID cards

This has to be one of the dumbest things I've heard in a long time. The UK has spent £4.4 billion ($6.6bn US) on a controversial high-tech National Identity Card scheme for the whole country. But they forgot one thing. No police or border station, to say nothing of licensing and job centers, has a machine capable of reading the damn things.

Incredibly, they neglected to include in the budget the absolutely necessary counterpart to the card: the card reader. Like an inexperienced shopper who buys a digital camera but not a computer to view the pictures on, they are now in possession of a far-reaching and complete ID tracking solution that they can in no way use. What a boondoggle!

The official word is that the reader rollout may cost taxpayer money (brilliant, Sherlock) and is not really being pursued that actively. While it would make sense to get a few IDs out there first and then follow up with the readers after six months, perhaps, that was not at all included in the budget and in fact the readers' manufacturers haven't been convinced it's worth their while to make the things.


7th February   

Update: A Threat to Freedom...

Lords committee seeks dramatic reduction of surveillance state
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

The vast growth of surveillance and data collection risks undermining freedoms vital to the British way of life, a group of eminent peers has warned.

In a devastating critique of the spiralling use of CCTV, databases and information sharing, they warn that the growth of information collected about every man, woman and child in Britain is a serious threat to principles at the heart of the constitution.

The Lords Constitution Committee, which includes the former law lord, Lord Woolf, and the former attorney generals, Lord Lyell and Lord Morris of Aberavon, call in a report for new safeguards to prevent government and private databases damaging historic rights to privacy and civil liberties.

Committee chairman Lord Goodlad, a former Conservative minister, warns: The UK now has more CCTV cameras and a bigger national DNA database than any other country. There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards a situation where every detail about us is recorded and pored over by the state.

The peers warn that the collection and processing of personal information has become pervasive, routine, and almost taken for granted.

The report is being published as ministers prepare proposals to gain unprecedented access to details of every email, internet connection and telephone call made in Britain. Proposals to allow ministers to sanction the sharing of confidential personal data across Whitehall and beyond are also being debated by MPs.

The report calls for a dramatic slimming of the national DNA database, arguing samples should not be kept if people are not charged or convicted, and insisting the law should be changed to ensure DNA samples given by volunteers are removed.

The peers call for senior judges to oversee surveillance. They say ministers should review the powers of local councils to authorise surveillance and say compensation should be paid if people are monitored unlawfully by police or the security services. They also demand that a powerful committee of MPs and peers be established to oversee the data powers of the state.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: This is a damning indictment of the reckless approach of this Government to privacy. Ministers have sanctioned a massive increase in surveillance over the last decade, at great cost to the taxpayer, without properly assessing its effectiveness or protecting the privacy of innocent people.

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said: This highlights how the Government has ridden roughshod over our freedoms in establishing its surveillance state. Ministers would do well to remember the British state belongs to the British people, not the other way around.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of pressure group Liberty, said: Our postbag suggests the House of Lords is more in touch with public concerns than our elected Government.


7th February   

Czech Republic Condemned...

Reports of castration without consent
Link Here

The Czech Republic's image as a bastion of Bohemian liberalism has come under threat after a leading human rights watchdog condemned the country for surgically castrating sex offenders.

In a detailed report, the Council of Europe's anti-torture committee branded the practice a degrading treatment , and called for it to halt immediately: Surgical castration is a mutilating, irreversible intervention and cannot be considered as a medical necessity in the context of the treatment of sex offenders. The intervention removes a person's ability to procreate and has serious physical and mental consequences.

The number of men castrated remains vague, the Czech health ministry says that in the last 10 years 94 men have consented to the intervention.

The country also uses chemical castration but reserves surgery, in which parts of the testicles are removed, for serious cases of sexual violence.

The Council of Europe report attacked the Czech government's claim that sex offenders opted for castration of their own free will. Faced with a long prison sentence, the offender agrees to castration, the report says, believing it is the only available option to avoid indefinite confinement.

The committee also noted that in at least five cases a court- appointed guardian had signed consent forms for castration, and that on two occasions the guardians had been local mayors. Also a considerable number of the surgically castrated offenders suffered from significant mental retardation.

The report comes at a time when several countries, including Britain, are considering introducing chemical castration.


6th February   

Getting Acquainted with Big Brother...

The US National Security Agency wants to get to know you better
Link Here

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is developing a tool that George Orwell's Thought Police might have found useful: an artificial intelligence system designed to gain insight into what people are thinking.

With the entire Internet and thousands of databases for a brain, the device will be able to respond almost instantaneously to complex questions posed by intelligence analysts. As more and more data is collected—through phone calls, credit card receipts, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, GPS tracks, cell phone geolocation, Internet searches, Amazon book purchases, even E-Z Pass toll records—it may one day be possible to know not just where people are and what they are doing, but what and how they think.

The system is so potentially intrusive that at least one researcher has quit, citing concerns over the dangers in placing such a powerful weapon in the hands of a top-secret agency with little accountability.

It is known as Aquaint, which stands for Advanced QUestion Answering for INTelligence.


6th February   

No Threat to Privacy...

But why did you turn off Google mobile phone tracking dear?
Link Here

Google has launched a tracking service that lets parents keep an eye on their children and wives keep tabs on their husbands.

The software allows owners of mobile phones or BlackBerry hand-held computers to have their whereabouts followed by family and friends anywhere around the world.

The Google Latitude feature is being promoted by Google as a 'fun' way to keep tabs on someone special. However, it will raise concerns about privacy - and whether it is encouraging a Big Brother culture.

The software is included in the latest version of Google maps for mobiles - software that allows mobile phone owners to browse maps on the go.

Google insisted there was no threat to privacy. It was up to each user to decide whether to make their location visible to other people - and who could monitor their location. The service was designed to help people keep in touch, a spokesman added.

Once switched on, it plots the user's location by using information from mobile phone towers and global positional systems. Google Latitude is available free in the UK, US, including New York, above, and 24 other countries but only works with certain phones and networks

If a phone is equipped with GPS, then it pinpoints the location to within a few yards. If it isn't, the location is only accurate to hundreds of yards - or in rural areas with few mobile phone masts, several miles. It requires each user to turn on the tracking system, and then choose who they want to share their location with.

Google is promising not to store any information about its users' movements.

However, privacy watchdog Privacy International argues that there are opportunities for abuse of the system for those who may not know that their phone is broadcasting its location.

Privacy International director Simon Davies gives the example of employers who might give phones to employees with Latitude enabled.


6th February

 Offsite: Criminal policing...

Link Here
Police face few sanctions even if their conduct is deemed unlawful

See article from


5th February   


Finland to add all its residents to police fingerprint database
Link Here

The Finnish government is pushing ahead with plans to collect all citizens' fingerprints for passports and to give police access to fingerprints for crime detection.

The bill is expected to go before the Finnish parliament this week and is likely to come into force in spring. Part of the justification is the EU requirement to add biometrics to passports - a requirement from this summer.

Anyone applying for a passport, temporary passport, seaman's pass or alien or refugee travel document will have their dabs taken and added to the national register. Police will able to access that database for crime detection.


29th January   

Update: Keeping Tabs on Your Kids...

The state database recording children's lives nears its live date
Link Here
Full story: ContactPoint Database...Logging childhood brushes with the authorities

The government has said it has begun training local authority officials to run the new ContactPoint database, which will contain personal information all 11m children in England and Wales, after months of delays and political controversy.

About 300 council workers will learn how to administer the database, and will be responsible for the quality of the information it contains, officials said. From spring, people who work with children in 19 early adopter organisations will be trained as the first ContactPoint users. ContactPoint should be fully available nationwide early next year.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have called for the system to be scrapped, claiming it will be insecure and vulnerable to government data loss. The Tories want ContactPoint to be replaced with a database that only includes information about children identified as vulnerable.

The database is loaded with data from existing government systems and will record the name, age, gender and address of every under-18, along with their guardian's contact details. This will then be associated with the contact details of their GP, school, health visitor and school nurse. No case or subjective information will be held on any child, officials said. [but of course it readily connects users to someone that does keep subjective information].

The DCSF estimates that 390,000 people will have access to ContactPoint. They will be required to undergo criminal record and identity checks, and be verified on the system by username, password, token and PIN.

The plan to shield some records on ContactPoint so that only very basic information is displayed about a child to users has proven controversial. To contact other users about a shielded child, ContactPoint users will need to make a case to the local authority to put them in touch. Officials estimated that hundreds of children will be shielded by each local authority in an ongoing process due to start as soon as administrators are trained. Supposedly shielding would protect families fleeing domestic violence or in witness protection and was not designed to guard the privacy of politicians and celebrities.

Concerns have also been raised about police access to ContactPoint and the potential for profiling young people as potential criminals.

Update: Inadequate data security for children fleeing abusive homes

25th March 2009. See article from

ContactPoint is meant to keep tabs on England's 11 million children by giving council officers, health care professionals and police a single register of their names, ages and addresses as well as information on their schools, parents and GPs.

But its planned launch has been put on hold once again after local authority staff discovered loopholes in the system designed to hide personal details of the most vulnerable young people – meaning that adopted children or those fleeing abusive homes could be tracked down.

This is the third time that the ฃ224million computer index has been delayed, prompting fresh calls for it to be scrapped.

It comes just a day after a scathing report commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust named ContactPoint as one of 11 public sector databases that are "almost certainly illegal" because of privacy and security issues, and because there is no opt-out.


29th January   

Insulting EU Citizens...

No misdemeanour is too minor for the pan-EU criminal database
Link Here

If one thinks our home grown UK totalitarians and their mad, evil laws and control freakery are bad enough, have a look at the new European criminal data base that is gearing up-

The EU Council decision of 20th January 2009 on the establishment of a pan-EU criminal database includes the following offences :

  • Offences related to waste
  • Unintentional environmental offences
  • Insult of the State, Nation or State symbols
  • Insult or resistance to a representative of public authority
  • Public order offences, breach of the public peace
  • Revealing a secret or breaching an obligation of secrecy
  • Unintentional damage or destruction of property
  • Offences against migration law—an "Open category"
  • Offences against military obligations—an "Open category"
  • Unauthorised entry or residence
  • Other offences—an "Open category"
  • Other unintentional offences
  • Prohibition from frequenting some places
  • Prohibition from entry to a mass event
  • Placement under electronic surveillance
  • Withdrawal of a hunting / fishing license
  • Prohibition to play certain games/sports
  • Prohibition from national territory
  • Personal obligation—an "Open category"
  • "Fine"—all fines, inc. minor non-criminal offences"


16th January   

Justice Coronary Bill...

Big Brother database a 'terrifying' assault on traditional freedoms
Link Here

Sweeping new powers allowing personal information about every citizen to be handed over to government agencies faced condemnationamid warnings that Britain is experiencing the greatest threats to civil rights for decades.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the pressure group Liberty, warned that the laws were among a string of measures that amounted to a terrifying assault on traditional freedoms.

Proposals in the Coroners and Justice Bill include measures to authorise ministers to move huge amounts of data between government departments and other agencies and public bodies. Bodies that hold personal information include local councils, the DVLA, benefits offices and HM Revenue and Customs.

The Bill will allow ministers to use data-sharing orders to overturn strict rules that require information to be used only for the purpose it was taken. But it places no limit on the information that could eventually be shared between public bodies, potentially allowing vast amounts of personal data to be shared by officials across Whitehall, agencies or other public bodies.

Safeguards in the Bill will ensure that the proposed orders are considered by the Information Commissioner and require them to be formally approved by Parliament.

Ms Chakrabarti warned the measure was one of a string of threats to civil liberties that range from attacks on the Human Rights Act, the advent of ID cards, and proposals to retain data on internet and email use. She declared: The combination amounts to the most authoritarian time in my lifetime. In Britain, we are seeing happening things I would never have dreamt of seeing.

David Howarth, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, condemned the Government for burying more building blocks of its surveillance state in a bill to reform the coroner service.

Nick Herbert, the shadow Justice Secretary, added: This government has shown a cavalier attitude to the security of personal data. There must be proper safeguards for any measures which will enable ministers, with minimal parliamentary scrutiny, to allow sensitive information to be exchanged without barriers when it may have been collected for an unrelated purpose.


15th January   

A Ticket to Search...

Police want to be able to forcibly search all train passengers
Link Here

Passengers who buy a London train or tube ticket would automatically be giving their consent to be searched, under police proposals now under consideration.

Senior British Transport police officials told MPs today that they wanted to change the railways' conditions of carriage to close a loophole that means officers using mobile knife-detecting arches at stations have no legal power to search someone who sets them off unless they have a reasonable suspicion that they are breaking the law.

Assistant Chief Constable Paul Crowther of British Transport police told the Commons home affairs select committee that, as the law stood, it often made more sense to search passengers who deliberately avoided going through the arches.

The Home Office also confirmed today that the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, wants to introduce banning orders to tackle gang-related violence. She is considering legislation to allow civil injunctions to be used to ban individual gang members from visiting particular areas or wearing insignia or clothes that signal their allegiances.

The idea was given a lukewarm reception by the Labour chairman of the select committee, Keith Vaz, who said he preferred to see measures that tackled the underlying causes of gang culture rather than another method of simply containing the problem.

British Transport police say the proposal to make an agreement to being searched a condition of buying a railway or tube ticket would put the railways on the same footing as public events such as football matches or concerts. Consent is already a condition of travel in the United States.

The transport police chief told MPs they could currently use the arches only to scan people who volunteered to go through them, unless they had a reasonable suspicion the travellers were breaking the law.


12th January   

Update: Labour's Listening...

EU ISPs to retain email routing and websites visited from 15th March
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Jacqui Smith will soon begin one of the Home Office's famed consultation exercises on new systems demanded by spy chiefs to snoop on internet communications in the UK. this is known as the  Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP) .

But in the meantime, the imminently-in-force EU Data Retention Directive (EUDRD) is due to come into force on 15 March, as part of a European Commission directive which could affect every ISP in the country.

The EUDRD differs from Jacqui Smiths database monstrosity in that EUDRD mandates communications data retention by ISPs in house whereas the IMP could propose retention by the UK government in a centralised database.

Both were originally to be implemented by the Communications Data Bill as related but separate legal acknowledgements of law enforcement.

That marriage of convenience was cancelled, however, when it became clear its passage through parliament would cause the UK to fail to meet its legal obligation to transpose the EUDRD by March 15. Instead the directive is being made UK law by statutory instrument (secondary legislation without a parliamentary hearing).

In the meantime, Whitehall infighting over the much more ambitious IMP intensified, prompting Jacqui Smith to drop the Communications Data Bill from the Queen's Speech in favour of a public consultation, putatively scheduled to begin around the end of this month.

Based on article from

Plans for a Big Brother database holding records of every citizen's emails, internet visits and mobile phonecalls must include proper safeguards to protect the public from abuses of privacy, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service has warned.

Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking publicly for the first time since taking up his post in November, said the Government, police and security agencies should only be allowed to collect and use that data where there was a clear legitimate purpose that justified the invasion of an individual's privacy.

Starmer said: By its very nature criminal investigation touches on privacy. I think the right balance for any investigation or prosecution has got to have a legitimate purpose. Investigation of crime is a legitimate purpose. But Starmer stressed, there must also be effective safeguards to act as a break on the state's invasion of the public's privacy.

His predecessor, Sir Ken Macdonald, described the database as an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information.

Big Brother: How much will they know?

The wholesale collection and storage of all our email, internet and mobile phone records would allow the Government to know more than it has ever known about how we live our daily lives. By accessing mobile phone records and using GPS tracker technology it would be possible to discover where a phone-user is on any given day. Police or the security services would also be able to establish the length of each call as well as the number that was dialled.

Messages to and from social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace could also be subject to covert surveillance, meaning the Government would know both where we are and who our friends or associates might be. This information would be added to the records of all email traffic, allowing investigators to form a clearer picture of our social lives. This would include all emails, although not the content, from unsolicited sources.

The picture would be completed by a trawl of our internet history which might lead the police to draw conclusions about our interests and shopping habits. At no time would we know we were being snooped on.


6th January   

Updated: UK Government Scumware...

Serious transition to a police state where your computer can be remotely searched
Link Here
Full story: State Trojan Horses...State infects home PCs using Trojans

The UK Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.

The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs. They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives a coach and horses through privacy laws.

The hacking is known as remote searching . It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.

Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.

Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.

A remote search can be granted if a senior officer says he believes that it is proportionate and necessary to prevent or detect serious crime — defined as any offence attracting a jail sentence of more than three years.

However, opposition MPs and civil liberties groups say that the broadening of such intrusive surveillance powers should be regulated by a new act of parliament and court warrants. They point out that in contrast to the legal safeguards for searching a suspect’s home, police undertaking a remote search do not need to apply to a magistrates’ court for a warrant.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, said she would challenge the legal basis of the move. These are very intrusive powers – as intrusive as someone busting down your door and coming into your home, she said.

Richard Clayton, a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said that remote searches had been possible since 1994, although they were very rare. An amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 made hacking legal if it was authorised and carried out by the state. He said the authorities could break into a suspect’s home or office and insert a key-logging device into an individual’s computer. This would collect and, if necessary, transmit details of all the suspect’s keystrokes. It’s just like putting a secret camera in someone’s living room, he said.

Police might also send an e-mail to a suspect’s computer. The message would include an attachment that contained a virus or malware . If the attachment was opened, the remote search facility would be covertly activated. Alternatively, police could park outside a suspect’s home and hack into his or her hard drive using the wireless network.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A spokesman said police were already carrying out a small number of these operations which were among 194 clandestine searches last year of people’s homes, offices and hotel bedrooms.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, agreed that the development may benefit law enforcement. But he added: The exercise of such intrusive powers raises serious privacy issues. The government must explain how they would work in practice and what safeguards will be in place to prevent abuse.

The Home Office said it was working with other EU states to develop details of the proposals.

Update: In Denial

6th January 2009. See article from

The Home Office has denied it has made any change to rules governing how police can remotely snoop on people's computers.

Any such remote hack - which normally requires physical access to a computer or network or the use of a key-logging virus - is governed by Ripa - and the rules have not changed.

But European discussions on giving police more access are underway - we reported on the meeting of ministers in October. But despite this Sunday Times story, no change has yet been made. The paper claimed the Home Office: has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers.

A spokesman for the Home Office told the Reg that UK police can already snoop - but these activities are governed by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the Surveillance Commissioner. He said changes had been proposed at the last Interior Ministers' meeting, but nothing has happened since.

The German Interior Ministry explained at the time that almost all partner countries have or intend to have in the near future national laws allowing access to computer hard drives and other data storage devices located on their territory. But the Germans noted the legal basis of transnational searches is not in place and ministers were looking for ways to rectify this.


1st January   

Update: Database Rethink...

Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights condemns UK database monstrosity
Link Here
Full story: Communications Snooping...Big Brother Extremism

Britain must rethink plans for a database holding details of every email, mobile phone and internet visit, Europe's human rights commissioner has said in an outspoken attack on the growth of surveillance societies.

Thomas Hammarberg said that UK proposals for sweeping powers to collect and store data will increase the risk of the violation of an individual's privacy.

Plans for the database of emails, phone calls and internet visits are to be published by the Home Office in January. These proposals have already been described by the Government's own terrorism-law watchdog as awful and attacked by civil liberty groups for laying the basis of a Big Brother state.

Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, told The Independent that surveillance technologies are developing at breathtaking speed. In a direct criticism of Britain, he said: It is therefore worrying that new legislation proposals intend to expand the authorities' power to allow personal data collection and sharing. Although safety measures are foreseen, the adoption of these measures would increase the risk of violation of individuals' privacy.

The retention and storing of data is delicate and must be highly protected from risk of abuse. We have already seen what a devastating and stigmatising effect losing files or publishing lists of names on the internet can have on the persons concerned. This is particularly relevant to the UK, where important private data has been lost and ended up in the public domain.

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs, supported Hammarberg's criticism, saying: A major database for email, mobile phone calls and the internet would be an astonishing and Orwellian step. 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a blueprint.

Worthless Government Reassurances

Based on article from

The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone's calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.

A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.

But in his strongest criticism yet of the superdatabase, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has firsthand experience of working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies, told the Guardian such assurances would prove worthless in the long run and warned it would prove a hellhouse of personal private information.

Macdonald said: Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything. All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen.

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