One of the UK’s smallest police forces, Durham Police, is reportedly gathering video captured by officers’ body worn cameras to create a ‘troublemakers’ database – contravening national guidance that officers should not use the technology as an ‘intelligence-gathering tool’.
Body Worn Video cameras, or ‘bodycams’ as they are more usually known, are now a global phenomenon. Most UK police forces use them routinely, as do forces in the US, Australia and Europe. Nor is it just the police that is using this technology: bodycams are routinely worn by bailiffs, security guards, even traffic wardens and council workers.
This is arguably one of the biggest single expansions of surveillance capacity since the introduction of CCTV, and one that is highly profitable for bodycam manufacturers such as Axon (formerly Taser International). Read more
When the Countryside Alliance’s advisor on policing, retired Dyfed Powys chief inspector Phillip Davies, addressed the recent National Police Chiefs Council conference in Derby, also attended by Netpol, he was keen to portray opponents of hunting as violent ‘extremists’ and complained bitterly about the lack of police action against them. In reality, however, it is often activists monitoring breaches of the Hunting Act 2004 who are themselves under attack by hunt supporters. Read more
Why do the Zapatistas wear masks?
Wednesday’s student protest includes a call for protesters to cover their faces to protect their privacy. This guest post, by London Mexico Solidarity Group, is a reminder, however, that in the Mexican state of Chiapas, the Zapatistas wear masks to ensure they are seen.
On January 1st 1994, at half-past midnight, on the inaugural cusp of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the US and Mexico, 3,000 masked Zapatista soldiers emerged from the jungle and mountain villages of the southeastern state of Chiapas and occupied seven towns, including the historic colonial city of San Cristobal de las Casas.
Behind the black balaclavas or red kerchiefs, were faces with distinctive Mayan features typical of the people native to these lands who have been resisting repression, exploitation, racism and genocide for centuries. Read more
With special thanks to our amazing friends at Strike! magazine, who donated the artwork, Netpol’s new ‘Behind Every Mask A Friend’ posters are now available to help promote our call for students attending the Free Education demonstration in London on 4 November to start planning now to protect themselves against intrusive and unwarranted police surveillance. Read more
If you are planning to attend this November’s national student march, you should start planning now to cover up against intrusive surveillance
On Wednesday 4 November, students from around the country will assembly in London for the ‘Free Education & Living Grants For All’ protest called by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. Coming almost five years to the day since the start of a wave of student unrest began in London, marchers will find themselves joined by an array of police intelligence-gatherers. The demonstration is liable to face an intense level of surveillance.
As well as demanding living grants for all and an education system that is free, this is also an opportunity for student protesters to take an important stand to protect their individual privacy while out on the streets and exercising their freedom of assembly. One of the few remaining ways to do so in the current climate of mass surveillance is by covering your face with a mask or scarf and ensuring that in future, this becomes as normal on every protest as carrying a placard. Read more
A right-wing national newspaper has secretly provided funds towards a privacy campaign encouraging protesters to bring face masks to the streets of Britain, Netpol can exclusively reveal.
BY OUR COPYRIGHT CRIME REPORTER
The Mail on Sunday, a prominent mainstream ‘news’ provider responsible over many years for numerous attacks on protesters and their right to demonstrate, has handed over £330 to Netpol’s ‘Cover Up To Defend Your Privacy’ appeal.
The ‘donation’ comes after a scurrilous and tawdry attack article appeared in its print and online editions, on the weekend before June’s huge anti-austerity demonstration in central London. Read more
Nobody should expect to give up their right to privacy, just so they can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly
Netpol’s ‘Privacy Bloc‘ made quite an impact at the People’s Assembly anti-austerity demonstration in London on Saturday 20 June. We distributed around 850 face coverings and – even in a march of thousands – images of masked protesters appeared in much of the media coverage. We are delighted with how well received the masks were received on the march itself, from people from different backgrounds and all ages. It was clear we could easily have handed out many more – an indicator that people are already starting to consider the need to protect their privacy and anonymity on the streets.
So, having kick-started the debate on the need for protest anonymity, where do we go from here?
Netpol’s campaign for more protesters to wear a face covering takes to the streets on 20 June
We have received over 100 donations towards the cost of producing at least 500 face coverings and from the beginning, we said we planned to hold a ‘Privacy Bloc’ at a future demonstration.
The campaign launched by Netpol last week, which is seeking to challenge attitudes towards greater protection of protesters’ privacy, has sparked considerable feedback about the ethics of wearing a face covering or mask.
Some have argued an established position that protest is fundamentally about making a public stand in support of individual beliefs. Wearing a face covering therefore removes, not least in the eyes of the courts, a level of personal accountability for how you act in support of those beliefs.
Others, notably some anarchists, have insisted the option to ‘mask up’ is hardly new and there is little evidence to suggest a wider group of protesters, who have repeatedly resisted ‘black bloc’ solidarity tactics and are unwilling to actively frustrate oppressive policing, will suddenly embrace it.
There are merits in both of these positions, but both assume that face coverings are intrinsically linked to public disorder – either as a protection against police violence or, conversely, somehow emblematic of the use of violence by protesters. We think, however, that the growth of police surveillance has made the need for greater anonymity a much bigger issue, for everyone who takes part in any protest. Read more