Big Brother Society Is Bigger Than Ever; New Technology Is 'Undermining Privacy by Stealth'

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Byline: Jack Doyle Home Affairs Correspondent

THE march of Britain's 'Surveillance Society' was exposed last night in a devastating report.

Experts warned that a raft of new technologies were intruding ever further into private lives.

And legal protections were struggling to keep up with the 'Big Brother' onslaught, the Surveillance Studies Network said. The academics praised the Coalition for ditching ID cards and some state databases but they identified a string of threats including: nSocial networking sites that have 'exponentially' increased their holdings of personal data nBody scanners at airports that invite 'voyeuristic opportunism' nAutomatic numberplate recognition cameras nCCTV cameras in schools that measure teacher performance nAerial police drones that are 'more pervasive than CCTV' nGPS devices that can track the movements of staff such as cleaners to within a few yards nSoftware that allows users to track their friends but which could be hacked by outsiders nDatabases that sort individuals by their ethnicity or social class.

The network's last report - in 2006 - warned that Britain was sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Yesterday it raised the alarm over surreptitious and unaccountable surveillance practices and weak legal protections.

'Much surveillance also goes beyond the limits of what is tolerable in a society based on the rule of law and human rights, one of which is the right to privacy, the report said.

'Some technologies have gone from being a subject of speculation to being in mainstream use in many areas.

'Given the relatively low level of public and political understanding of technologies such as databases, it is too easy for functions to creep surreptitiously without exposure to widespread comment, debate, or proce-dures for deciding on the acceptability and accountability or uses.' The network said numberplate cameras were first sold as a tool to would allow police to track serious criminals. Now however they are being used to follow political protesters and hand out fines for minor parking and traffic infringements.

The network called for compensation for individuals placed under unlawful police surveillance and a requirement that those being watched are told afterwards. …