Looking back on 2012

i paperWe’d like to thank you for your support in 2012 and wish you all the best for 2013.

Looking back on 2012, we’re very proud of what Big Brother Watch has achieved. The Joint Committee on the draft Communications Data Bill concluded the draft Bill needs a comprehensive re-write, adopting a number of Big Brother Watch’s recommendations after we gave oral evidence to Parliament for the first time. We also attended all four party conferences.

We led opposition to Google’s new privacy policy and eagerly await the results of an EU investigation into the company. Our research into how many people had read the company’s new privacy policy was cited by the European Commissioner responsible for data protection, while Big Brother Watch was invited to join the Ministry of Justice’s Data Protection advisory panel.

Southampton and Oxford councils were taken to task after our complaints to the Information Commissioner about their audio CCTV plans for taxis, a story we ensured was heard worldwide.

Free speech has been a major issue of campaigning in 2012, with several successes. The House of Lords voted again to reform Section 5 of the Public Order Act, while our opposition to statutory regulation of the press won plaudits and bolstered support for the introduction of a custodial sentence for breaches of the Data Protection Act. We were one of the most vocal critics of decisions to arrest people for postings on social media where the only harm had been some people’s offence and as we called for, new guidance has since been issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions. We campaigned against default-blocking of internet content, a campaign that in the past week has led to Government policy rejecting such an option. We also joined the global internet blackout to oppose ACTA, with the campaign leading to the legislation’s downfall.

The Protection of Freedoms Act introduced a number of measures in Big Brother Watch’s manifesto, from the DNA Database to CCTV regulation. Far more needs to be done, but the legislation was a good start.

2013 is set to be another busy year, with Communications Data, CCTV regulation, school biometrics, privatised surveillance and medical privacy. We hope you can continue to support us.

Research highlights from the year

From CCTV in Schools to the on-going problems of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, our research over the year cast new light on the surveillance state and the widespread civil liberties issues that concern us.We began the year by highlighting how local authorities had spent £515m on CCTV in four years, before exposing that 3 million British people had been background checked in 2011. In March we highlighted how nine in ten users had not read Google’s new privacy policy,Following the Protection of Freedoms Act, we cast our light on the DNA Database, exposing how police forces were not equipped to implement the legislation and reviewed how the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act continued to be used by local authorities and public bodies. The report included a foreword from Secretary of State for Local Government Eric Pickles.

Our ground-breaking research into school CCTV exposed more than 200 schools with cameras in changing rooms and toilets, prompting widespread media debate, while Conor Burns MP to authored an excellent paper on the need for reform of the European Arrest Warrant.

Finally, we concluded the year with details of the hundreds of local authorities who had lost their access to the DVLA database, and before the end of the year unveiled new shocking statistics on the CRB system branding innocent people as criminals.
Here’s to 2013!