A European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in January, in a case brought by veteran peace campaigner John Catt, is extremely significant for the future of protest surveillance.
For seven years John has argued that the decision by the police to retain extensive surveillance data about him on the secretive National Domestic Extremism Database was a violation of his privacy.
The introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998 provided UK citizens with some protections about how our personal data is gathered, retained and used. Exemptions, however, that were given to the police have allowed them to treat information gathered from surveillance on protesters with the same cavalier attitude we invariably witness from the so-called “facilitation” of their protests. Concerns about privacy have never featured highly in the police’s priorities.