Jacqui Smith's speech to Intellect - do we have - "safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense" - or a surveillance society ?

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What is your definition of a "surveillance society" ? It is probably not the same as Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's still secret definition.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, like her Labour party fellow travellers, seems to be spewing Orwellian doublethink and newspeak, where normal sounding English words, have their meanings utterly reversed, without displaying any sense of shame, or pang of conscience, at their perversion.

Safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

From now on, all of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's policy statements will be analysed with these categories in mind. We suspect that she will be found wanting in all of them.

Unfortunately these weasel worded soundbites, which touch on several topics about which Spy Blog regularly comments on, are the current Government's substitute for detailed, practical, cost effective policies:

Apologies for the length of this blog article fisking of this speech, but she uttered a lot of weasel words which need to be challenged:


Home Secretary's speech: Protecting rights, protecting society

16 December 2008

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith delivered this speech to the Intellect Trade Association on December 16, 2008.

Today I'd like to address one of the most pressing questions we face as a modern society - how we secure our rights and liberties as individuals, at the same time as ensuring the wider protection of all in our society against terrorism, crime and disorder.

Balancing these individual and collective rights has always been a key responsibility of government.

One which this increasingly repressive and authoritarian, yet morally weak, Labour government, has failed to get right.

And in an era of rapid technological change, it is right that we should constantly satisfy ourselves that we have got the balance right.

Labour Ministers and bureaucrats are always self satisfied that they have done nothing wrong, no matter how severe the incompetence or unfairness which their policies create. Their first principle seems to be to "shoot the messenger", and to lay off any blame onto some Quango or NDPB or junior official.
What they need to do is to satisfy us, the innocent members of the public, that the balance is in our individual favour, not in favour of the vested interests of the State and its secret or commercial lobbyists, nor in favour of real criminals..

Looking back over the year, we've seen the question raised in some new - and it's fair to say, peculiar - ways.

In June, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden booked himself a footnote in the history books by resigning from parliament and the Conservative front-bench, only to return to the Commons a month later.

Note how she could not actually bring herself to use the name of David Davis MP - remember this is not a speech given on the floor of the Chamber of the House of Commons, where the convention is to refer to Parliamentary Constituencies rather than the names of actual Members of Parliament, this was a speech to Intellect, the UK trade body which represents most of the Information technology consulting, hardware and software suppliers who have a symbiotic relationship with out of control, multi-billion pound Government IT projects.

David Davis offered to debate all of the issues mentioned further on in this speech during his successful re-election campaign, but the Labour party politicians and propagandists refused to put up an official Labour party candidate against him, whilst plotting to try to con victims of terrorism or crime into standing against him by proxy.

Remember that when Jacqui Smith talks about "public debate" or "engagement" later on in this speech.

And one night in April - less than a mile from here, just off Oxford Street - the artist Banksy left his calling card, with a piece of 30 foot high graffiti that proclaimed 'ONE NATION UNDER CCTV'.

Eight months later, it's still there - with a CCTV camera watching over it.

The CCTV cameras were there before the wall art graffiti was painted, and did nothing to prevent or deter this "crime".

See our photos: Banksy "One Nation Under CCTV" - tourists and beggars

We were a nation under surveillance back in April, and are even more so now in December.

And while it's probably done wonders for the value of that gable wall, we're entitled to ask how much this effort, and others like them, have hit the right target.

A nation under CCTV?

Are we, really, a nation under CCTV? Do we, today, live in what critics call a surveillance society?

I don't believe so, not for one moment. But I welcome the debate.

If Jacqui Smith does not believe, "not for one moment", that we live in "a surveillance society", then why does she avoid any direct debate with, for example, David Davis MP, or with the NO2ID Campaign or Privacy International or the Open Rights Group or Liberty Human Rights, or ordinary members of the public ?

And while not condoning graffiti per se, I understand the need to keep revisiting these issues in an open and democratic society.

We are - all of us, as citizens, consumers, businesses and government - now presented with a host of new ways to capture, analyse and use data.

And there are clear benefits:

* retailers, banks, and insurance companies delivering more personalised and efficient services

There is nothing "efficient" about retailers, banks and insurance companies, except their ability to lose billions of pounds and thousands of their customer's personal data records on a regular basis.

Only the Government is worse at safeguarding our private personal data and our money.

* nurseries using online webcams to reassure parents that their children are in good hands

Not all parents are re-assured by such snooping !

These systems have weak security, if any, and are Ideal for kidnappers, stalkers and child molesters with administrator access at the nursery school, their IT suppliers or at any of the internet service providers between the school and the parents. Unlike people actually working at the nursery school, none of the people installing or delivering or administering such child surveillance systems need to have even the fig leaf of a Criminal Records Bureau check. Some of them will be able to access such images of your children from foreign countries.

Why should one set of parents be able to snoop, in secret, on other people's children, without explicit prior permission ?

* sat nav technology making people's everyday lives easier, whether it's working out the route of a journey or accessing information from your mobile phone

Most mobile phones in the UK do not yet have "sat nav" technology.

The combination of a GPS sat nav chip and a mobile phone is what makes up most of a mobile "electronic tag", used so ineffectively by the Home Office and its sub-contractors to tag criminals on bail, and, controversially, instead of part of a prison sentence, even for violent or dangerous criminals.

* strengthening the frontline against crime, with handheld computers and mobile fingerprint devices meaning the police can spend more time out of the station

None of these examples have anything to with CCTV mass surveillance systems i.e. "A nation under CCTV?"

In the space of a century, we have moved from setting up the first fingerprint branch in Scotland Yard in 1901 to the regular use of DNA today to extend and backdate the ability to investigate crime.

To put it another way, we have seen elementary policing progress from the deductions of Sherlock Holmes and his dear sidekick right through to the forensic use of the discoveries of Francis Crick and Dr Watson's namesake.

These developments have brought opportunities and challenges in their wake.

DNA profiling was developed by Professor Alec Jeffreys, who has expressed serious concerns about the way in which his techniques have been applied by the UK Government and Police, especially the retention of innocent people's DNA samples and profiles.

In some cases, like with DNA or the use of covert surveillance powers, it means rethinking our regulations and ensuring high standards of safeguards.

Such "standards of safeguards" e.g. for DNA retention of innocent people's data or for the planting of electronic bugging devices intrusively (i.e. by breaking into people's home or vehicles) were routinely ignored in practice, then declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights. This Labour Government has rubber stamped Acts of Parliament to make such practices legal, retrospectively, without any of their politicians having the honour to take the blame for the illegal actions of their subordinates, and resign.

In other cases, as with the rapid growth of online communications, new technology demands that we find new ways to maintain the protections we currently rely on for the public good.

Early in the new year, we will consult on how to best continue tracking information relating to serious and organised crime and terrorism in this new environment.

Will the Government again deliberately delay the the latest Annual Report of the Interception Commissioner, and of the Intelligence Services Commissioner, which should, according the the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, be "laid before Parliament" before the end of this calendar year i.e. this Wednesday or Thursday, as they have in the past ?

Will this be a crude attempt to conceal the latest, albeit inadequately detailed figures about the extent of such Communications Data use by the state ?

As today's verdict in the trial for the murder of Rhys Jones has shown, communications data can form an important part of prosecution evidence. And indeed this information - on the fact that communication has taken place, but not on its content - plays a role in some 95% of all really serious criminal cases, such as murder, drugs trafficking, and child sex abuse.

If this capability isn't to be lost due to the growth of online communications, it's clear that we need to respond and adapt to technological change.

As always, of course, new technology presents opportunity gaps for criminals as well - a set of early adopters if ever there was one, always on the look-out for new ways to exploit weaknesses.

Identity fraudsters, child pornographers, and international terrorists - all have made extensive use of the internet. And, our response - working with industry on the responsible use of social networking sites, for example, or to develop filtering software - has had to adapt constantly to stay ahead of the game.

All of the sorts of people existed before the internet was invented, and the Government's efforts at internet censorship have been technologically and administratively inept.

The same "Great Firewall of Britain" infrastructure used to censor such websites or other internet traffic can also be used against innocent political opponents as well - no dictorship or repressive regime ever admits to political censorship of the media or of the internet - they always pretend that it is for the purposes of "national security or crime" etc.

One thing is clear. The eager take-up of innovation in the consumer sector does not mean that government itself can proceed without caution, or without robust safeguards in place.

Common sense guidelines

The public expect us to make use of technology to protect them - and that is a clear priority for me. We would be failing in our duty to do otherwise.

When we talk about fingerprints...CCTV cameras...DNA swabs...or scanning machines at airports...I think that people instinctively understand that these technologies, used properly, are vital tools against crime, terrorism and illegal immigration.

But I also recognise the absolute necessity of getting the balance on privacy right.

And so today I want to set out some basic tests, and set out the direction of travel for some of our key policies.

Are there appropriate safeguards in place - to keep data secure, for example, and to provide independent oversight where appropriate - as we have progressively built into how the National Identity Scheme operates?

Are we being as transparent as possible

No !

Jacqui Smith has lapsed into Orwellian newspeak again here "transparency" seems to mean, in practice, secrecy and costly delays and legal appeals at public expense, to suppress the publication of information which might even help to strengthen the alleged aims of the Government's own policies.

Why does the Home Office refuse to make public even the barest details about the times and locations where the supposedly very temporary and extraordinary Terrorism Act 2000 section 44 stop and search without reasonable suspicionpowers are currently in force ? How can these powers be a deterrent, if they are kept so secret ?

See HO Terrorism Act 2000 s44 Authorisations

Why is it nearly 4 years since our Freedom of Information Act request for the early, and now very out of date, Gateway Reviews of the Home Office's Identity Cards Programme ?

See OGC Gateway Reviews of the Identity Cards Programme

- and as with ID cards, how do we provide individual citizens with the right level of choice and control?

What does she mean "as with ID Cards " ?

The Government , even after all these years, have not dared to publish any detailed procedures about "citizen's choice and control" over the National Identity Scheme !

The Government have stated many times that they intend there to be no effective choice i.e. that the registration scheme is to be compulsory.

There are no published control procedures or effective methods for correcting the Government's inevitable errors and cockups. All the risk and blame is shifted onto the individual citizens, and not onto Ministers or their sub-contractors, even if they are the ones who make the errors.

That is not the "right level of choice and control" for individual citizens, neither for the National Identity Scheme nor for any of the other Surveillance State Databases which this Government has already or is planning to inflict on us.

Where surveillance powers are used, are they kept in proportion to the damage and the threat they are seeking to prevent?

No they are not, especially not by Local Councils, nor by the Metropolitan Police Service acting in its Counter Terrorism role.

And perhaps the toughest question of all - does it stand up to the test of common sense?

Safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

For the public to have confidence that we will protect them and protect their rights, it is our responsibility as a government to ensure that these standards apply even as technology evolves.

The Government has been utterly, criminally, hopeless at using existing, available off the shelf, tried and tested technology e.g. encryption, to protect our data from espionage, theft or accidental loss, on a massive scale.

They have also ignored the fundamental common sense principle of Data Minimisation i.e. not collecting far more information than strictly needed for the task at hand.e.g. if you need to ascertain that someone is an adult or a child, you do not need to ask for, record, store and transfer on multiple times, their exact date of birth details - you only need to know whether they are older than 18 or not.

Both HMRC and the Ministry of Defence and HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office and the National Health Service etc. all claim to treat data security and privacy "verty seriously" and give it the "utmost importance" and have the "highest standards".

All of these have been shown to be spectacular failures in the past couple of years or so., so why should we believe that the centralised national biometric database and tracking system the National Identity Scheme, be any different ?

Other countries have shown that it is possible to have a national identity card, even one with biometrics, which does not rely on a vulnerable , oppressive centralised databases, and which, unlike the UK scheme, can actually be used to help verify your internet or mobile phone transactions through the use of digital certificates.

RIPA consultation

Ten days ago, on a trip to Tower Hamlets, I saw how an entire neighbourhood had had their daily lives made a misery for months by the behaviour of people in one particular flat - until the local council and the police got a premises closure order and boarded it up. That order was only made possible because covert CCTV had helped capture the evidence of anti-social behaviour and crime.

Such a narrow, targeted use of CCTV surveillance may be justifiable, but those examples do not make the case for the mass surveillance via CCTV which millions of us innocent people suffer from every day.

Was this "premises closure order" really only obtained entirely through the use of CCTV surveillance evidence, and without any complaints or witness statements by the neighbours ?

There are literally hundreds of cases like this, where the police and local authorities access investigatory powers like covert surveillance and communications data under RIPA - the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - and use these powers fairly and squarely to help law-abiding people to hit back against the yobs and bring criminals to book.

But even as we recognise the usefulness of RIPA, we have to be sure that it is being used properly. Even with the clear safeguards that RIPA requires for the use of communications data and covert surveillance, I am concerned at the level of misunderstanding there is about what these powers are, who has access to them, and what they can be used for.

Let's be clear. RIPA is not anti-terror legislation, as is sometimes suggested. RIPA limits the use of investigatory powers, and makes sure they are used properly and proportionately. The legislation provides for oversight by independent commissioners and routes for individuals to complain if they feel the use of these powers has been unjustified.

While most of the investigations local authorities carry out are important - like protecting the public from dodgy traders, trapping fly tippers who dump tonnes of rubbish on an industrial scale across the countryside, or tackling the misery caused by noisy and disruptive neighbours - there are clearly cases where these powers should not be used.

I don't want to see them being used to target people for putting their bins out on the wrong day, for dog fouling offences, or to check whether paper boys are carrying sacks that are too heavy.

Local council requests amount to a tiny proportion of the overall numbers - but nonetheless, it's essential to make sure we've got the balance right. And it's these tales of 'dustbin Stasi' and examples of excessive intrusion that give the responsible and respectable use of the powers a bad name.

Early next year, we will consult on a number of proposed changes to RIPA - and we will look at:

• revisions to the Codes of Practice that come under the Act;
• which public authorities can use RIPA powers; and
• raising the bar for how those powers are authorised, and who authorises their use.

One question I will be asking of local authorities is whether the powers are authorised at a high enough level. Would it reinforce public confidence, and avoid frivolous use of the powers, if they could only be done with the consent of a senior executive, and subject to a form of oversight from elected councillors?

Local Authorities and other Quangos, or NDPBs should lose their ability to self authorise Intrusive or Directed Surveillance under RIPA entirely. Only the Police and Intelligence Agencies should have these powers.

Local Authorities only use these powers on relatively few occasions. When an investigation has reached such a stage, as to involve serious organised crime, then there should be a joint investigation with the Police or with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and they should handle all the RIPA authorisations and audit trails and management of confidential human or technical resources etc., not the inexperienced Local Authority staff.

I am determined to maintain robust powers to tackle crime and disorder. But to allay public fears of excessive intrusion, and to keep people's trust and confidence in the wider necessity of these powers to tackle disorder, crime and terrorism, I am equally clear that we have to measure these efforts against our standards for safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense.

The same principles apply to DNA evidence. Having looked at this area particularly closely over the past year, I've found there are few areas where the balance between rights and protections comes into such stark relief as on DNA.

The recent European Court judgement in the S and Marper case has put the issue back in the spotlight.

We wonder if Jacqui Smith and her senior civil servants and political apparatchiki have actually bothered to read the damning unanimous judgment by the 17 judges of the European Court of Human Rights. They highlighted lots of areas of policy where this Labour Government is wrong and is acting illegally, with regard to both DNA cellular tissue samples, DNA profiles and also Fingerprints.

See ECHR judgment on the Marper case - rules that UK Government and Police indefinite retention of innocent people's tissue samples, DNA profiles and fingerprints is illegal

Many of you will have seen the response of victims' families to the recent ruling - notably the family of Sally Ann Bowman, whose killer was convicted as a result of DNA taken after he was arrested following a pub brawl and subsequently acquitted.

I have real sympathy for all those with concerns that any move could undermine a system that helped trap Sally Ann's killer. And I want to reassure Sally Ann's father that I will not let that happen.

In this and other cases, we've seen convictions for serious crimes of culprits who had had their DNA taken and retained for a previous crime where they were arrested, but not convicted.

In May 2002, Kensley Larrier was arrested for the possession of an offensive weapon. His DNA was taken and loaded to the DNA database, although the proceedings were then discontinued. Two years later, DNA from a rape investigation was speculatively searched against the database and matched his sample. This was the only evidence in the case, and when found guilty Larrier received a 5 year custodial sentence and was entered on the sex offenders register for life.

These cases and others tell me that the DNA database is crucial to public protection. It not only helps to lead to the guilty. It helps to prove innocence and to rule people out as suspects.

The Home Office has claimed, purely as a statistical guesstimate, that there are over 100 such cases , but has refused to provide details of more than a tiny handful of them.

That argument was made to the ECHR and, rightly rejected by them, as being disproportionate.

Keeping innocent people's DNA data on a database does not help to "prove innocence" or to "rule people out as suspects", that is what the direct comparison of the DNA of a suspect against the DNA samples from the crime scene does. Once it has been shown that there is no match, that data should be destroyed.

There is more we can do to strengthen the dividing line between guilt and innocence. For those who have committed a serious offence, our retention policies need to be as tough as possible.

Only for people actually convicted of serious offences, not simply those falsely accused, or arrested or even charged with such offences..

But for others, including children, I am convinced that we need to be more flexible in our approach.

The DNA of children under 10 - the age of criminal responsibility - should no longer be held on the database. There are around 70 such cases, and we will take immediate steps to take them off.

It will be interesting to see just how long "immediate" actually takes in practice.

For those under the age of 18, I think we need to strike the right balance between protecting the public and being fair to the individual.

There's a big difference between a 12 year old having their DNA taken for a minor misdemeanour and a 17 year old convicted of a violent offence, and next year I will set out in a White Paper on Forensics how we ensure that that difference is captured in the arrangements for DNA retention.

Why were these issues and procedures not debated and codified at the start of the National DNA Database ?

We will consult on bringing greater flexibility and fairness into the system by stepping down some individuals over time - a differentiated approach, possibly based on age, or on risk, or on the nature of the offences involved.

That may mean letting the 12 year old I mentioned come off the database once they reach adulthood. And it could mean limiting how long the profiles of those who have been arrested but not convicted of an offence could be retained.

We are also re-examining retention arrangements for samples. Physical samples of hair and saliva swabs that represent people's actual DNA are much more sensitive than the DNA profile that is kept on the database - which only uses a small part of non-coding DNA.

This was a key point flagged up when we set up the Ethics Group under the National DNA Database Strategy Board, and we will pursue improvements to the safeguards around the handling of samples.

The ECHR judgment suggests that you should destroy those samples of innocent people, as they contain even more sensitive familial information, including medical data, than mere DNA profiles do.

These changes will see some people coming off the system. But as I said, we need to strengthen the dividing lines between innocence and guilt - and so I want to do more to ensure we get the right people onto the system as well.

The supposed error correction mechanism is currently a deliberate bureaucratic obstacle course, far beyond the resources of most ordinary people.

This must be immediatel


As you say, "What proof is there that this will not simply be Yet Another Labour Government Fake Consultation exercise..."

She defended the keeping of DNA profiles of innocent people in the speech, which I suggest is the real motivation for the whole off-the-shelf, “tests of safeguards, openness, proportionality and common sense” speech Smith gave. No doubt her real intention is to get her own way, either by this phoney consensus, or a change in law via legislative manoeuvring around the HRA.

About this blog

This United Kingdom based blog attempts to draw public attention to, and comments on, some of the current trends in ever cheaper and more widespread surveillance technology being deployed to satisfy the rapacious demand by state and corporate bureaucracies and criminals for your private details, and the technological ignorance of our politicians and civil servants who frame our legal systems.

The hope is that you the readers, will help to insist that strong safeguards for the privacy of the individual are implemented, especially in these times of increased alert over possible terrorist or criminal activity. If the systems which should help to protect us can be easily abused to supress our freedoms, then the terrorists will have won.

We know that there are decent, honest, trustworthy individual politicians, civil servants, law enforcement, intelligence agency personnel and broadcast, print and internet journalists etc., who often feel powerless or trapped in the system. They need the assistance of external, detailed, informed, public scrutiny to help them to resist deliberate or unthinking policies, which erode our freedoms and liberties.

Email Contact

Please feel free to email your views about this blog, or news about the issues it tries to comment on.


Our PGP public encryption key is available for those correspondents who wish to send us news or information in confidence, and also for those of you who value your privacy, even if you have got nothing to hide.

You can download a free copy of the PGP encryption software from www.pgpi.org
(available for most of the common computer operating systems, and also in various Open Source versions like GPG)

We look forward to the day when UK Government Legislation, Press Releases and Emails etc. are Digitally Signed under the HMG PKI Root Certificate hierarchy so that we can be assured that they are not fakes. Trusting that the digitally signed content makes any sense, is another matter entirely.

Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers and Political Dissidents

Please take the appropriate precautions if you are planning to blow the whistle on shadowy and powerful people in Government or commerce, and their dubious policies. The mainstream media and bloggers also need to take simple precautions to help preserve the anonymity of their sources e.g. see Spy Blog's Hints and Tips for Whistleblowers - or use this easier to remember link: http://ht4w.co.uk

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

Digital Security & Privacy for Human Rights Defenders manual, by Irish NGO Frontline Defenders.

Everyone’s Guide to By-Passing Internet Censorship for Citizens Worldwide (.pdf - 31 pages), by the Citizenlab at the University of Toronto.

Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents - March 2008 version - (2.2 Mb - 80 pages .pdf) by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics by Human Rights Watch.

A Practical Security Handbook for Activists and Campaigns (v 2.6) (.doc - 62 pages), by experienced UK direct action political activists

Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor - useful step by step guide with software configuration screenshots by Ethan Zuckerman at Global Voices Advocacy. (updated March 10th 2009 with the latest Tor / Vidalia bundle details)

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009
Convention on Modern Liberty - 28th Feb 2009

The Convention is being held in the Logan Hall and adjoining rooms at the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury, central London.


The Institute of Education
20 Bedford Way

There are video linked screenings or other parallel meetings being held across the UK in Belfast. Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff and Manchester.

Convention on Modern Liberty blog

David Davis for Freedom

House of Lords Constitution Committee - Surveillance: Citizens and the State

House of Lords Constitution Committee 2008-2009 session - Second Report: Surveillance: Citizens and the State


Watching Them, Watching Us

London 2600

Our UK Freedom of Information Act request tracking blog

WikiLeak.org - ethical and technical discussion about the WikiLeaks.org project for anonymous mass leaking of documents etc.

Privacy and Security

Privacy International
Privacy and Human Rights Survey 2004

Cryptome - censored or leaked government documents etc.

Identity Project report by the London School of Economics
Surveillance & Society the fully peer-reviewed transdisciplinary online surveillance studies journal

Statewatch - monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union

The Policy Laundering Project - attempts by Governments to pretend their repressive surveillance systems, have to be introduced to comply with international agreements, which they themselves have pushed for in the first place

International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance

ARCH Action Rights for Children in Education - worried about the planned Children's Bill Database, Connexions Card, fingerprinting of children, CCTV spy cameras in schools etc.

Foundation for Information Policy Research
UK Crypto - UK Cryptography Policy Discussion Group email list

Technical Advisory Board on internet and telecomms interception under RIPA

European Digital Rights

Open Rights Group - a UK version of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a clearinghouse to raise digital rights and civil liberties issues with the media and to influence Governments.

Digital Rights Ireland - legal case against mandatory EU Comms Data Retention etc.

Blindside - "What’s going to go wrong in our e-enabled world? " blog and wiki and Quarterly Report will supposedly be read by the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance. Whether the rest of the Government bureaucracy and the Politicians actually listen to the CSIA, is another matter.

Biometrics in schools - 'A concerned parent who doesn't want her children to live in "1984" type society.'

Human Rights

Liberty Human Rights campaigners

British Institute of Human Rights
Amnesty International

Prevent Genocide International

asboconcern - campaign for reform of Anti-Social Behavior Orders

Front Line Defenders - Irish charity - Defenders of Human Rights Defenders

Internet Censorship

OpenNet Initiative - researches and measures the extent of actual state level censorship of the internet. Features a blocked web URL checker and censorship map.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Reporters without Borders internet section - news of internet related censorship and repression of journalists, bloggers and dissidents etc.

Judicial Links

British and Irish Legal Information Institute - publishes the full text of major case Judgments

Her Majesty's Courts Service - publishes forthcoming High Court etc. cases (but only in the next few days !)

House of Lords - The Law Lords are currently the supreme court in the UK - will be moved to the new Supreme Court in October 2009.

Information Tribunal - deals with appeals under FOIA, DPA both for and against the Information Commissioner

Investigatory Powers Tribunal - deals with complaints about interception and snooping under RIPA - has almost never ruled in favour of a complainant.

Parliamentary Opposition

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

UK Government

Home Office - "Not fit for purpose. It is inadequate in terms of its scope, it is inadequate in terms of its information technology, leadership, management systems and processes" - Home Secretary John Reid. 23rd May 2006. Not quite the fount of all evil legislation in the UK, but close.

No. 10 Downing Street Prime Minister's Official Spindoctors

Public Bills before Parliament

United Kingdom Parliament
Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.

House of Commons "Question Book"

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

FaxYourMP - identify and then fax your Member of Parliament
WriteToThem - identify and then contact your Local Councillors, members of devolved assemblies, Member of Parliament, Members of the European Parliament etc.
They Work For You - House of Commons Hansard made more accessible ? UK Members of the European Parliament

Read The Bills Act - USA proposal to force politicians to actually read the legislation that they are voting for, something which is badly needed in the UK Parliament.

Bichard Inquiry delving into criminal records and "soft intelligence" policies highlighted by the Soham murders. (taken offline by the Home Office)

ACPO - Association of Chief Police Officers - England, Wales and Northern Ireland
ACPOS Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland

Online Media

Boing Boing

Need To Know [now defunct]

The Register

NewsNow Encryption and Security aggregate news feed
KableNet - UK Government IT project news
PublicTechnology.net - UK eGovernment and public sector IT news
eGov Monitor

Ideal Government - debate about UK eGovernment

NIR and ID cards

Stand - email and fax campaign on ID Cards etc. [Now defunct]. The people who supported stand.org.uk have gone on to set up other online tools like WriteToThem.com. The Government's contemptuous dismissal of over 5,000 individual responses via the stand.org website to the Home Office public consultation on Entitlement Cards is one of the factors which later led directly to the formation of the the NO2ID Campaign who have been marshalling cross party opposition to Labour's dreadful National Identity Register compulsory centralised national biometric database and ID Card plans, at the expense of simpler, cheaper, less repressive, more effective, nore secure and more privacy friendly alternative identity schemes.

NO2ID - opposition to the Home Office's Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID bulletin board discussion forum

Home Office Identity Cards website
No compulsory national Identity Cards (ID Cards) BBC iCan campaign site
UK ID Cards blog
NO2ID press clippings blog
CASNIC - Campaign to STOP the National Identity Card.
Defy-ID active meetings and protests in Glasgow
www.idcards-uk.info - New Alliance's ID Cards page
irefuse.org - total rejection of any UK ID Card

International Civil Aviation Organisation - Machine Readable Travel Documents standards for Biometric Passports etc.
Anti National ID Japan - controversial and insecure Jukinet National ID registry in Japan
UK Biometrics Working Group run by CESG/GCHQ experts etc. the UK Government on Biometrics issues feasability
Citizen Information Project feasability study population register plans by the Treasury and Office of National Statistics

CommentOnThis.com - comments and links to each paragraph of the Home Office's "Strategic Action Plan for the National Identity Scheme".

De-Materialised ID - "The voluntary alternative to material ID cards, A Proposal by David Moss of Business Consultancy Services Ltd (BCSL)" - well researched analysis of the current Home Office scheme, and a potentially viable alternative.

Surveillance Infrastructures

National Roads Telecommunications Services project - infrastruture for various mass surveillance systems, CCTV, ANPR, PMMR imaging etc.

CameraWatch - independent UK CCTV industry lobby group - like us, they also want more regulation of CCTV surveillance systems.

Every Step You Take a documentary about CCTV surveillance in the Uk by Austrian film maker Nino Leitner.

Transport for London an attempt at a technological panopticon - London Congestion Charge, London Low-Emission Zone, Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras, tens of thousands of CCTV cameras on buses, thousands of CCTV cameras on London Underground, realtime road traffic CCTV, Iyster smart cards - all handed over to the Metropolitan Police for "national security" purposes, in real time, in bulk, without any public accountibility, for secret data mining, exempt from even the usual weak protections of the Data Protection Act 1998.

RFID Links

RFID tag privacy concerns - our own original article updated with photos

NoTags - campaign against individual item RFID tags
Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products has been endorsed by a large number of privacy and human rights organisations.
RFID Privacy Happenings at MIT
Surpriv: RFID Surveillance and Privacy
RFID Scanner blog
RFID Gazette
The Sorting Door Project

RFIDBuzz.com blog - where we sometimes crosspost RFID articles

Genetic Links

DNA Profiles - analysis by Paul Nutteing
GeneWatch UK monitors genetic privacy and other issues
Postnote February 2006 Number 258 - National DNA Database (.pdf) - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The National DNA Database Annual Report 2004/5 (.pdf) - published by the NDNAD Board and ACPO.

Eeclaim Your DNA from Britain's National DNA Database - model letters and advice on how to have your DNA samples and profiles removed from the National DNA Database,in spite of all of the nureacratic obstacles which try to prevent this, even if you are innocent.

Miscellanous Links

Michael Field - Pacific Island news - no longer a paradise
freetotravel.org - John Gilmore versus USA internal flight passports and passenger profiling etc.

The BUPA Seven - whistleblowers badly let down by the system.

Tax Credit Overpayment - the near suicidal despair inflicted on poor, vulnerable people by the then Chancellor Gordon Brown's disasterous Inland Revenue IT system.

Fassit UK - resources and help for those abused by the Social Services Childrens Care bureaucracy

Former Spies

MI6 v Tomlinson - Richard Tomlinson - still being harassed by his former employer MI6

Martin Ingram, Welcome To The Dark Side - former British Army Intelligence operative in Northern Ireland.

Operation Billiards - Mitrokhin or Oshchenko ? Michael John Smith - seeking to overturn his Official Secrets Act conviction in the GEC case.

The Dirty Secrets of MI5 & MI6 - Tony Holland, Michael John Smith and John Symond - stories and chronologies.

Naked Spygirl - Olivia Frank

Blog Links

e-nsecure.net blog - Comments on IT security and Privacy or the lack thereof.
Rat's Blog -The Reverend Rat writes about London street life and technology
Duncan Drury - wired adventures in Tanzania & London
Dr. K's blog - Hacker, Author, Musician, Philosopher

David Mery - falsely arrested on the London Tube - you could be next.

James Hammerton
White Rose - a thorn in the side of Big Brother
Big Blunkett
Into The Machine - formerly "David Blunkett is an Arse" by Charlie Williams and Scribe
infinite ideas machine - Phil Booth
Louise Ferguson - City of Bits
Chris Lightfoot
Oblomovka - Danny O'Brien

Liberty Central

dropsafe - Alec Muffett
The Identity Corner - Stefan Brands
Kim Cameron - Microsoft's Identity Architect
Schneier on Security - Bruce Schneier
Politics of Privacy Blog - Andreas Busch
solarider blog

Richard Allan - former Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam
Boris Johnson Conservative MP for Henley
Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, "outsourced torture" whistleblower

Howard Rheingold - SmartMobs
Global Guerrillas - John Robb
Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends

Vmyths - debunking computer security hype

Nick Leaton - Random Ramblings
The Periscope - Companion weblog to Euro-correspondent.com journalist network.
The Practical Nomad Blog Edward Hasbrouck on Privacy and Travel
Policeman's Blog
World Weary Detective

Martin Stabe
B2fxxx - Ray Corrigan
Matt Sellers
Grits for Breakfast - Scott Henson in Texas
The Green Ribbon - Tom Griffin
Guido Fawkes blog - Parliamentary plots, rumours and conspiracy.
The Last Ditch - Tom Paine
The (e)State of Tim - Tim Hicks
Ilkley Against CCTV
Tim Worstall
Bill's Comment Page - Bill Cameron
The Society of Qualified Archivists
The Streeb-Greebling Diaries - Bob Mottram

Your Right To Know - Heather Brooke - Freedom off Information campaigning journalist

Ministry of Truth _ Unity's V for Vendetta styled blog.

Bloggerheads - Tim Ireland

W. David Stephenson blogs on homeland security et al.
EUrophobia - Nosemonkey

Blogzilla - Ian Brown

BlairWatch - Chronicling the demise of the New Labour Project

dreamfish - Robert Longstaff

Informaticopia - Rod Ward


The Musings of Harry

Chicken Yoghurt - Justin McKeating

The Red Tape Chronicles - Bob Sullivan MSNBC

Campaign Against the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Stop the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill

Rob Wilton's esoterica

panGloss - Innovation, Technology and the Law

Arch Rights - Action on Rights for Children blog

Database Masterclass - frequently asked questions and answers about the several centralised national databases of children in the UK.


Moving On

Steve Moxon blog - former Home Office whistleblower and author.

Al-Muhajabah's Sundries - anglophile blog

Architectures of Control in Design - Dan Lockton

rabenhorst - Kai Billen (mostly in German)

Nearly Perfect Privacy - Tiffany and Morpheus

Iain Dale's Diary - a popular Conservative political blog

Brit Watch - Public Surveillance in the UK - Web - Email - Databases - CCTV - Telephony - RFID - Banking - DNA


MySecured.com - smart mobile phone forensics, information security, computer security and digital forensics by a couple of Australian researchers

Ralph Bendrath

Financial Cryptography - Ian Grigg et al.

UK Liberty - A blog on issues relating to liberty in the UK

Big Brother State - "a small act of resistance" to the "sustained and systematic attack on our personal freedom, privacy and legal system"

HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

Identity Cards Bill clause by clause analysis and comments


Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

RIPA Consultations

RIPA Part III consultation blog - Government access to Encrypted Information and Encryption Keys.

RIPA Part I Chapter II consultation blog - Government access and disclosure of Communications Traffic Data

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August 2009

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence.gov.uk - Cabinet Office hosted portal website to various UK Intelligence Agencies and UK Government intelligence committees and Commissioners etc.

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protestClimate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

syf_logo_120.gif Secure Your Ferliliser logo
Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

cpni_logo_150.gif Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure
Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

SIS MI6 careers_logo_sis.gif
Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

Serious Organised Crime Agency - have cut themselves off from direct contact with the public and businesses - no phone - no email

Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

netcu_logo_150.gif National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit
National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit - keeps a watch on animal extremists, genetically modified crop protesters, peace protesters etc.
(some people think that the word salad of acronyms means that NETCU is a spoof website)

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV


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