Photographs, names and video footage of people attending protests are routinely obtained by surveillance units and stored on an “intelligence system”. The Metropolitan police, which has pioneered surveillance at demonstrations and advises other forces on the tactic, stores details of protesters on Crimint, the general database used daily by all police staff to catalogue criminal intelligence. It lists campaigners by name, allowing police to search which demonstrations or political meetings individuals have attended.
Disclosures through the Freedom of Information Act, court testimony, an interview with a senior Met officer and police surveillance footage obtained by the Guardian have established that private information about activists gathered through surveillance is being stored without the knowledge of the people monitored.
Police surveillance teams are also targeting journalists who cover demonstrations, and are believed to have monitored members of the press during at least eight protests over the last year. …
Superintendent David Hartshorn, from the Met’s public order branch, conceded law-abiding campaigners were being added to the database. He said individuals on the system included people convicted or suspected of public order offences.
But he added “people we have seen on a regular basis involved but may not have been charged or arrested” were also stored on the database. He added that the data was reviewed every year. “In relation to what we can keep on databases, we are governed quite strictly on that. Obviously you’ve got the Data Protection Act but also, in terms of intelligence, we have to justify what we are able to keep.”
Then do so.
Why is it necessary and proportionate to:
- have a protestor database in the first place (as opposed to merely storing the details of those who commit crimes);
- store details of those who have not been convicted or suspected of public order offences, i.e. simply storing the details of every protestor;
- store the details of members of the press who cover protests.
… From Monday it will be an offence to elicit or attempt to elicit information about an individual who is or has been a member of the armed forces, intelligence services, or a police officer in Great Britain – it’s been an offence in Northern Ireland since 2000. It will also be an offence to publish such information.
In a nutshell, you could be arrested for taking and publishing a picture of a police officer if the police think it is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. Your defence if charged by the crown prosecution service would be to prove that you had a “reasonable excuse” to take the picture in the first place. …
And a great comment:
Yet they are free to film us, photograph us, take our DNA where no crime has been committed, stop and search us, fit us up, read our emails, listen to our phone calls, access whatever databases the government has on us, monitor our car journeys and the list goes on.
In August 2008, environmental protestors set up camp in Kent, England, to protest the current and newly proposed E-On coal-fired power stations at Kingsnorth.
Part One of two films, Covering Climate Camp documents not the protest movement, but the journalists trying to cover the story for independent and mainstream news organisations.
In some of the worst scenes of police interference the press were subjected to stop-and-search, harassment, aggression and violence, which led to the National Union of Journalists and the industry media publically slamming the police on the grounds of press freedom restriction.
Part Two of two films, Covering Climate Camp continues to document the press coverage and subsequent press freedom restrictions. As the policing gets heavier, journalists trying to cover the story for independent and mainstream news organisations face surveillance, harassment, endless stop-and-searches and assault – they are even followed by a police unit to a McDonald’s restaurant.