Sunday, January 23, 2011

Newsletter - 21st January

Alex Deane is moving on
Alex writes:
 "After 18 fantastic months at the helm with BBW, I have accepted an offer to become a Director at Bell Pottinger. Whilst I’m excited by a new challenge, I shall miss working with BBW full time terribly. I am very proud of what we’ve done so far with Big Brother Watch, and I will definitely remain involved in BBW’s work in the months and years to come.

"I want to say thank you to everyone that has helped us get this great organisation off the ground, and urge you to pitch in and help Dan over the next few weeks when he’ll be running the show on his own!"
ID cards will cease to be legal at midnight
 At midnight tonight, ID cards will cease to be valid means by which to prove your identity or to travel inside the Euopean Union. By the end of next week, the National Identity Register - which was designed to hold the details of card holders - will be deleted.
 Damian Green MP, the minister with responsibility for the abolition of ID cards, made the  following statement.
"Laying ID cards to rest demonstrates the government's commitment to scale back the power of the state and  restore civil liberties.
"It is about the people having trust in the government to know when it is necessary and appropriate for the state to hold and use personal data, and it is about the government placing their trust in the common-sense and responsible attitude of the people"
Amen to that.
28 to 14 to...?

This week saw the announcement by the coalition that the powers which allow terrorist suspects to be detailed for up to 28 days will be allowed to expire at midnight on Monday.  From that point, the maximum limit for which someone will be allowed to be detained without charge will be 14 days.
This is a good result for those who believe in freedom.  Finally, this government is delivering some of what they promised when the coalition took office in May.
This is not, however, the end of the road. 

The debate should now be about whether the limit should go lower than 14 days without charge.  Big Brother Watch firmly believes that it should.

 The European Arrest Warrant

This week, the Big Brother Watch team attended an excellent event hosted by our  good friends at the Freedom Assocation at which Nick de Bois MP outlined his concerns about the unfair use of the European Arrest Warrant.

For those of you who weren't able to make it, you can watch a video of the full event by clicking here.

Big Brother Watch book... available in all good bookshops!

The debate about our DNA database, the largest per capita in the world, has dominated headlines throughout the last few years. Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country in the world, and even more are being installed – including in private homes, facing out into the street. With the Intercept Modernisation Programme, the current government plans to record details of every telephone call made and e-mail sent by people in the United Kingdom.

A database of households, is set to be compiled for “health and safety” reasons, is planned by the NHS. The Independent Safeguarding Authority continues to plan a compulsory register of all those who regularly come into contact with children – perhaps a third of adults in the country. Stop-and-Search powers under the Terrorism Act are argued about as photographers are arrested for taking photographs of public buildings. Data chips in our bins monitor our domestic waste. Despite a temporary retreat on their compulsory status, identity cards (and, more importantly, the database behind them) remain with us.

What is the future for civil liberties in modern Britain?

Each of these topics - and more - are investigated in a landmark collection of essays by leading experts in the field of civil liberties, edited by Big Brother Watch Director Alex Deane.

Click here to buy the book on Amazon for only £6.49!

Blogs of the Week

Coalition to allow 28 day detention to expire

The coalition government has today announced that the powers which allow terrorist suspects to be detailed for up to 28 days will be allowed to expire at midnight on Monday.  From that point, the maximum limit for which someone will be allowed to be detained without charge will be 14 days.
No cookies for the EU
In November, we reported that European Union officials were engaged in discussing and debate what to do about regulating web cookies. A cookie is a piece of information stored in a browser by a website in order to track a users preferences, login details or any other data that it useful for a website to know. Privacy advocates support a regulated cookie environment while business who make their money online say that cookies are a necessary part of shopping and browsing online.

Obama and Cameron must press China on human rights

If you are fortunate enough today to be inside the Beltway today, you will notice a rare treat, an official state visit, this time the U.S. will host  Chinese President Hu  Jintao. The President arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, where we was greeted by V.P. Joe Biden and attended the first of two lavish dinners. The second state dinner, will be given tonight, and no expense will be spared.

Terry Jones: Let him in

According to news report this morning, the American pastor Terry Jones has been blocked from visiting the United Kingdom. 
Jones, you may recall, is the head of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainsville, Florida (congregation size: 30) which last year attempted to hold a ceremonial Koran burning in order to demonstrate their stalwart opposition to Islamic extremism.  In the end, following calls from President Obama (who perceptively suggested that such a burning would result would spark a "recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda") and General David Petraeus, Jones announced that is church had abandoned their plans.

Facebook wants to share your contact details

The Telegraph reports that Facebook has now made it easier for third party application developers to request a user’s contact information in return for using an application. According to Facebook’s Developer Blog, the new feature rolled out early on Saturday morning. It is ‘now making a user’s address and mobile phone number accessible'.

Pressure mounts on Hungary over new media law

As reported on the BBW blog ten days ago, the Hungarian government is currently seeking to establish a new media regulator with the power to arbitrarily seize media equipment, force journalists to reveal their sources or face the threat of imprisonment for non-compliance and impose fines on news organisations for reporting on items deemed “undesirable”.
Jane Fae, a long-standing Big Brother Watch supporter, has today written an excellent piece regarding the chorus of disapproval at this law which is starting to resonate across Europe.

Media Coverage

BBC News - Is CCTV creeping too far?
The proliferation of the cameras has prompted small, dedicated pressure groups to take action. Big Brother Watch and No CCTV are the most notable...
...CCTV is everywhere, both public and private-run. It is in hospitals, universities, car parks, buses, trains, shopping centres and pubs. It is even mobile, with many councils in London, and a handful outside the capital, using CCTV cars to film traffic offences, such as driving while using a mobile phone. There are 54 CCTV cars patrolling 31 local council areas, according to Big Brother Watch.
The Independent - 'Kiss and tell' policy dumped
 A nd campaign organisation Big Brother Watch said people should not be expected to divulge details about personal circumstances to employers.
"Quite apart from the fact it's wrong for Fenland District Council to build up this kind of database, what people do in their own time is up to them," said Big Brother Watch campaign director Daniel Hamilton. "If people are good at their jobs, they should be left alone - regardless of who they share their bed with at the end of the day."
TechEye - Failed ID Card project racks up another £400,000 in expenses
This has not appeased Alex Deane, director at rights group Big Brother Watch. Deane told TechEye: "This is yet another reason we should never have begun with this monolithic database in the first place.
"Not only was it absurdly intrusive, not only was it eye-wateringly expensive – it costs a pretty penny to take apart, too. Still, we should all be very grateful for its demise." 
Yorkshire Post - Alex Deane: Alcohol and price of freedom from nanny state
THE Government has announced plans to introduce minimum prices for alcohol. I think it should keep its collective nose out... A government elected on a platform of widening freedom should not give way to authoritarian nanny statists. They've U-turned on this subject once already. They should turn again.
The Independent - 28 day terror detention order to expire
Alex Deane, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "This is a good day for freedom. Finally, this Government is delivering some of what they promised.
"The debate should now be about whether the limit should go lower than 14 days without charge - I firmly believe that it should."
The Express - Anger at 14-day limit on holiday terror suspects
Alex Deane, of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “This is a good day for freedom.”
Wales Online - Council criticised over powers to ‘spy’ on members of the public
Alex Deane, director of civil liberty campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “These powers are designed to tackle serious crimes, not to allow councils to snoop on their residents. If the offence is serious enough to merit covert surveillance then it should be in the hands of the police. These powers have to be taken away from councils.”

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