Prevent Watch

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The PROP Expert View: How Prevent impacts your beliefs and your mosque

Two crucial takeaways from the podcast between Prevent Watch’s Dr Layla Aitlhadj and Dilly Hussain from 5 Pillars that you may have missed: Prevent is a psychological control policy that is about placing its target group – in our case, Muslims – in a disempowered, apologetic position as a default, and it is counter-productive to the proper functioning of our mosques. It is there to stop people from expressing our perfectly legal and non-violent beliefs fully and freely, and to regulate Islamic learning. But Muslims need to protect their beliefs and their mosques, for more than just the sake of social activism. Because when you take on the Prevent “attitude”, you distance yourself from your Islamic identity and your beliefs can begin to change. Source: How Prevent impacts islamic beliefs and mosques – The People Review of Prevent

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EachOther: The new Prime Minister’s human rights record

As well as expanding the UK’s involvement in ‘offshoring‘ refugees and asylum seekers, new PM Liz Truss has reportedly pledged to increase frontline border staff by 20%. She has also voted for restricting legal aid and voted in favour of allowing national-security-sensitive evidence to be put before courts in secret sessions and out of the eye of the media. On privacy rights, Truss voted in favour of the mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities. The right to privacy is currently enshrined in the HRA, but parliament will vote on plans to replace the act with the Bill of Rights on 12 September. Records show that under the current government the prime minister has never rebelled against the party majority in a vote. Source: Liz Truss: The new Prime Minister’s human rights record | EachOther

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Popular Science: What is the UK-US Data Access Agreement?

An agreement between the United States and United Kingdom to improve cross-border law enforcement data sharing will go into effect later this year, the two nations announced in a joint statement. They will now be able to directly request data like messages and pictures, for example, from telecommunications providers in the other’s jurisdiction. The non-profit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation has previously criticized the foundational idea of data sharing with cross-border law enforcement as “a dangerous expansion of police snooping”. Source: What is the UK-US Data Access Agreement? | Popular Science

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Is Priti Patel trying to militarise counter-extremism in Britain?

An ex-Royal Marine Special Forces operations planner turned spy agency consultant is advising on the appointment of the next top counter-extremism commissioner, reveals Nafeez Ahmed in another ground-breaking investigation for the Byline Times. The Government panel that will be deciding on the appointment of the next Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism includes a former senior military officer who is a veteran of the Afghan and Iraq invasions. The former colonel now consults for overseas intelligence agencies and advises a private security firm specialising in “covert surveillance”. The Home Office assessor, Col. (ret) Robert Graham Cundy, is a former Royal Marine and British Army Special Forces officer who played a senior role in counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since retiring from the British Army, Cundy has contracted for various UK government departments including providing “capability training packages for overseas intelligence agencies,” according to his biography published […]

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Police minister rejects the need for ethics guidance on predictive policing technology

Claudia Glover writes in The Tech Monitor that the UK’s policing minister has rejected the suggestion that police forces might need ethical guidance in relation to emerging technologies. This, despite alarm from campaigners over live facial recognition and ‘predictive policing’. UK police forces are pursuing many of these technologies. Last year, the Mayor of London’s Office approved a new £3m “Retrospective Facial Recognition” system that will allow police to compare faces identified in CCTV footage against archival footage. “We have to be slightly careful not to stifle innovation,” UK policing minister Kit Malthouse Malthouse said, and that formal procurement frameworks “tend to be generally for more mature technology”. He said that while there could be room for regional bodies advising police forces on technology ethics, he would be “concerned about setting up a parallel ethics group” on a national level, as Parliament already serves that purpose. “In the end, aren’t […]

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Europol ordered to delete vast store of personal data

A Guardian investigation reveals that Europol, the EU police body, has been accused of unlawfully holding information and aspiring to become an NSA-style mass surveillance agency. An article co-authored by Apostolis Fotiadis, Ludek Stavinoha, Giacomo Zandonini, and Daniel Howden reveals that Europol will be forced to delete much of a vast store of personal data that it has been found to have amassed unlawfully by the bloc’s data protection watchdog. The unprecedented finding from the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) targets what privacy experts are calling a “big data ark” containing billions of points of information. Sensitive data in the ark has been drawn from crime reports, hacked from encrypted phone services, and sampled from asylum seekers never involved in any crime. According to internal documents seen by the Guardian, Europol’s cache contains at least 4 petabytes – equivalent to 3m CD-Roms or a fifth of the entire contents of […]

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Anti-extremism mentors inform on clients to police

Home Office mentors are gathering information on their clients in “confidential” deradicalisation meetings and sharing it with police for terrorism investigations into the very people they are counselling. Leaked documents seen by The Sunday Times reveal that the paid mentors, who include Islamic scholars and counter-extremism experts vetted and approved by the Home Office, routinely file an “intervention session report” after each mentoring session. The mentors’ reports provide a “vulnerability assessment” of a client, their “capability” of carrying out a violent act and “new relevant background information” which details the personal material that was obtained, including their “susceptibility to indoctrination” and state of “mental health”. The detailed assessments, carried out under the Channel mentoring programme, part of the government’s Prevent counter-terrorism agenda, also include briefings… Read more

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Sweden and UK’s surveillance programs on trial at the European Court of Human Rights

This week, the highest body of the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments against the mass surveillance programs of two countries, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The legal proceedings in the two cases started years before, in 2008 and 2013, respectively, with the litigation eventually reaching the court’s highest body, the ECHR Grand Chamber, who heard them one after the other, in succession on Wednesday, July 10. Both cases made similar arguments, asserting that the signals intelligence programs in the two respective countries set up mass surveillance operations to intercept all citizens’ communications, kept the programs secret, and ran them — and continue to run them — without proper oversight and checks and balances in place. Read more

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It’s Time to Close Down the Police’s “Domestic Extremism” Databases

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. Read more