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Big Brother Watch manifesto makes plea for privacy

Look at yourselves, insists pressure group

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The latest manifesto into the lists (pdf) comes not from a party standing at election, but from a pressure group.

Big Brother Watch has high hopes that the next government might listen to what it has to say on on the intersection of technology and civil liberties.

Only occasionally alarmist, Big Brother Watch are generally sound – and this manifesto, compiled with a little help from NO2ID and Privacy International, is no exception. It also has the distinct advantage – for researchers and journalists condemned to wade through the long-winded official party outpourings – of being confined to just two sides of A4, with one handy checklist of policies they would like to see an incoming government implement.

On the whole, there is little here for Reg readers to take issue with. Under three main headings – Privacy, Liberty and Surveillance – Big Brother Watch set out what they hope to see happening at once (within three months) within a year, and within five years.

Immediate demands include the scrapping of Contactpoint, the ID Card and the National Identity Register, along with a requirement for local councils to have a public consultation before installing any new CCTV.

Also scheduled for an abrupt and unceremonious end would be the intercept modernisation programme and the Independent Safeguarding Authority, responsible for our new vetting database.

Slightly longer term – within the first year – BBW are looking for a reduction in the powers exercised by various organs of state. They would remove the power to issue "on-the-spot" fines from council wardens, stop the transfer of police powers to private security firms and council wardens and require a Councillor’s sign off before any Council made use of RIPA.

They would like to see procedures introduced for the removal of the DNA profiles of innocent people, fewer individuals with powers to enter our homes, and an end to the NHS "spine" and summary record projects.

Longer term, some may consider that Big Brother Watch are looking for the impossible, since they suggest that it would be a good idea if EU police databases were secure and all of us had more rights within Europe.

According to the manifesto, "Big Brother Watch fights injustice and campaigns to protect our privacy and personal freedoms".

They claim that the British state has accumulated unprecedented power, whilst the instinct of politicians and bureaucrats is to expand their power base even further into areas unknown in peace time, adding: "Big Brother Watch campaigns to re-establish the balance of power between the state and individuals and families."

Launching the manifesto, Dylan Sharpe, Campaign Director of Big Brother Watch, said: "This election is the most important, in terms of civil liberties, for several decades. Opposition parties that seemingly understand the values of privacy and freedom are facing down an over-mighty government intent on hoarding our data and creating ever-more onerous restrictions on our daily lives.

"This manifesto spells out the relatively simple legislative reforms an incoming government could take that would restore our privacy and freedom to a level befitting the home of liberal democracy." ®

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