Monday, 26 October 2009

Are you, or have you ever been a domestic extremist?

The Guardian is running a series of articles on the policing of protests. Police are gathering the personal details of thousands of activists who attend political meetings and protests, and storing their data on a network of nationwide intelligence databases. They are run by the "terrorism and allied matters" committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers Ltd (Acpo) with a budget of £9 million a year.

The National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), runs a central database and contains detailed files on individual protesters who are searchable by name.

Their vehicles are being tracked via automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and may be tagged with a "protest" marker. ANPR "interceptor teams" are being deployed on roads leading to protests to monitor attendance.

Police Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) record footage and take photographs of campaigners as they enter and leave openly advertised public meetings. These images are entered on force-wide databases. The information is added to the central NPOIU.

Anton Setchell, who is in overall command of Acpo's domestic extremism remit, said people who find themselves on the databases "should not worry at all". But he refused to disclose how many names were on the NPOIU's national database, claiming it was "not easy" to count.

However, you should worry, so why not make a nuisance of yourself, make a data protection request for the surveillance data the FIT – and their equivalents in other forces – hold on you? Matt Salisbury has done this and it makes interesting reading. Did you know that Jack Straw was once, long ago, enraged to learn that MI5 had a dossier on him!

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