Emergency Powers

A wave of emergency powers and extreme measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic have brought about the greatest loss of liberty in our country's history. Extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures - but not an authoritarian surveillance state. Freedoms are too easily lost in the heat of crises - join us to protect them.

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UPDATE: During the Covid-19 pandemic, we stood up for rights and freedoms during unprecedented, challenging times. We committed to informing the public, press and parliamentarians about the worst excesses of emergency legislation, and worked tirelessly to stand against measures that threatened our civil liberties. We led the fight against Covid passes and exposed the chronic misuse of the Coronavirus Act, leading to hundreds of unlawful convictions being overturned.

We fought for protest rights, against mandatory vaccination and pushed back intrusive new forms of health surveillance. You can read our monthly Emergency Powers and Civil Liberties Reports, which give the story of the pandemic and detail the work Big Brother Watch did to roll back the worst of state and corporate overreach.

Pandemic Police State [Documentary]

Emergency measures are needed to protect public health. However, they must be proportionate, lawful and strictly temporary, to protect our democracy in the long run.

During the pandemic, the UK was under under ministerial rule for long stretches. Draconian powers were seized, democratic processes were evaded, and our most basic liberties were suspended. Protecting public health doesn’t require a new authoritarian political order.

We’ve been monitoring and campaigning against new police powers, the growth of the surveillance state, digital health IDs and big tech censorship online.

Watch the inside story of the UK’s pandemic police state!

Monthly Reports

We’ve produced comprehensive reports exposing the drastic suspension of civil liberties, analysing new emergency laws and making recommendations to restore rights and democracy. We sent these Emergency Powers & Civil Liberties Reports to every parliamentarian, every month.


In total, over 118,000 people have been fined for allegedly breaching complex and confusing lockdown laws. However, these draconian powers have been used unlawfully time and time again, and disproportionately against black and Asian people. We've rallied 13 rights groups, 40+ parliamentarians, human rights lawyers and Reverend Martin Poole to demand a review of EVERY lockdown fine - now.

If you received a fine, whether you paid it or not, tell us in confidence.




Is your MP standing up for your rights? Tell your MP which of our report recommendations you'd like them to follow up on. Emails to MPs can make a real difference - remember, they work for you.

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Increase your impact: share this campaign page, our documentary, or our reports with your friends and family.

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Thanks to thousands of our supporters emailing their MPs, we helped achieve a much-needed amendment to the emergency Coronavirus Act, ensuring a vote in parliament on the Act every 6 months. Please join us and subscribe for action alerts.

The Government pushed through the Act at every review, but thanks to pressure from our supporters, the Government scrapped the most draconian sections early and chose not the extend the Act when it expired in March 2022.

The Coronavirus Act contained the most draconian powers ever in peace-time Britain, including:

Forced detention and isolation can be of anyone, including children, and for any amount of time

Authorities can forcibly take biological samples

There’s no clear access to legal rights from as-yet unidentified isolation facilities

Lockdown powers could prevent protests against measures

State surveillance safeguards weakened

Protections from forced detainment and treatment under Mental Health Act lowered


In a HUGE win for privacy advocates, the Government has ditched its GCHQ-backed, data-centralising contact tracing app that we warned was a failure from the start - and are said to be replacing it with a more privacy-friendly decentralised app.

We'll work hard to make sure any new app respects privacy and is completely voluntary.


The pandemic has been used to expand the surveillance state: from drones and social media shaming, to mass mobile phone tracking, ANPR, citizen reporting, talk of immunity passports, and a new form of health surveillance — thermal scanning. We're monitoring these worrying developments and taking action. Below is a small selection of our work. Don't miss our 100 Days of Lockdown film where we examine growing surveillance.


As an organisation that defends freedom of expression, we're concerned that tech companies are limiting free speech on their platforms at this moment of international crisis, in ways that are not proportional or time limited.

Read our letters below: