No-CCTV attended the third annual 'Freedom not Fear' protest in Berlin on Saturday 11 September 2010 which attracted an astonishing estimated 10,000 people. The protest was titled 'Freedom not Fear 2010 – stop surveillance mania!' and similar protests were held in eight other capital cities across Europe to protest against the ongoing spread of excessive surveillance measures on the part of businesses and governments that is leading to the erosion of civil liberties in so many supposedly liberal states, both in Europe and worldwide. Our main argument is that the respect for our professional and personal privacy is an essential part of our human dignity, as a free and open society cannot exist without implicit private spaces and free communication.
It was an astonishing event because a protest of this magnitude against state surveillance is presently inconceivable in the UK. Indeed it is lamentable that no such protest took place in the UK, as we are by far the world's number one surveillance state. The majority of the protesters in the Berlin protest were German civil liberties groups, who remain a formidable force in a country whose population still has firmly lodged memories of the Stasi. Put simply, this country has a healthy hatred of any kind of state surveillance. It also benefits from a strong constitutional court, described to me by one German campaigner as their “saviour”. During my stay in Berlin I certainly noticed, and enjoyed the fact, that there are hardly any public space cameras and none on the open street. Needless to say, the contrast to the UK is stark.
The many different German groups, of all colours, shapes and sizes, were calling for the European directive on data retention to be revoked and for the Internet blocking law to be abolished. They also demand that several large German government IT projects and a proposed electronic health card be rejected, such as the employee wages database ELENA, and that the census planned for 2011 be aborted.
The official protest press release says:
Martin Grauduszus of the Free Physicians' Association (Freie Ärzteschaft) spoke on the project for an electronic health card (eCard). The declared intention of the state, said Grauduszus, was to "unhinge the indespensible protection of professional discretion and thus destroy the bastion of trust between patients and practitioners". Grauduszus sees the eCard as a bigger threat than Google's data leeching, making the patient a fully surveilled commodity. "What a scenario: the employer, seeing that his employee is seeking psychiatric help, throws him out with one mouse click." And insurances could select their customers on-screen as well.
It is with this German surveillance scene in mind that No-CCTV has also recently received German paliamentary delegations who have been seeking our advice on how to fight against mass surveillance CCTV. This is to counter other German parliamentarians who are keen to try and introduce more public CCTV surveillance and who have also been making recent visits to the UK. It would seem that foreign countries like Germany still have a rose tinted view which harps back to a time when we were regarded as a model 'liberal democracy' with respect to civil liberties. Due to this now outdated and inaccurate perception surveillance measures introduced in the UK have implications for the rest of the world. As our group has previously explained on many occasions, each advance in surveillance in the UK has the potential to filter around the globe – the companies producing such technology rub their hands with glee but ordinary citizens do not.
A video of the demo can be found online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awWQCYbV-wM
- [ 1] - http://blog.freiheitstattangst.de/about/english/
- [ x] - http://blog.freiheitstattangst.de/presse/pressemitteilungen/press-release-4-11-09-2010-13-00-am/