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Big Brother Watch is a non-profit non-party British civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation.[1] It was founded in 2009 to campaign against state surveillance and threats to civil liberties.[2] The organisation campaigns on a variety of issues including: the rise of the surveillance state, police use of oppressive technology,[3][4] freedom and privacy online, the use of intrusive communications interception powers including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act[5][6] and the Investigatory Powers Act,[7] the protection of personal information and wider data protection issues. The organisation is headquartered in Vauxhall, London.[8]

Big Brother Watch
FounderMatthew Elliott
TypeNon-profit campaign organisation
  • Westminster

The name 'Big Brother Watch' originates from George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949.

The company was founded by Matthew Elliott.



The group was established in late 2009 and the official launch took place in January 2010 with Tony Benn and David Davis as guest speakers.[9] Silkie Carlo is the Director.[10][11][12]

Reports and campaignsEdit

The organisation is campaigning against police retention of innocent people's custody images[13] (also known as mugshots) and police use of facial recognition technology.[14] In 2018 they supported a debate in the House of Lords which noted the intrusive nature of this technology, the lack of a legal basis or parliamentary scrutiny, and the possibility that it may be incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR.[15]

In 2017, Big Brother Watch took a case against the United Kingdom to the European Court of Human Rights, together with Open Rights Group and English PEN, arguing that UK surveillance laws infringed UK citizens' right to privacy.[5]

Big Brother Watch was part of the anti-surveillance coalition Don't Spy On Us,[16] which campaigned against the proposed bulk communications collection powers and lack of judicial safeguards in the Investigatory Powers Bill, now Investigatory Powers Act, in 2015 and 2016.[17]

The organisation has published reports investigating police access to people's personal mobile phone information,[18][19] police use of body worn cameras,[20] surveillance technology in schools[21] and the use of outdated communications laws to prosecute internet speech.[22][23]

In 2012, Big Brother Watch shut down its website in protest at the Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act proposed United States legislation, warning that similar plans may be proposed in the UK.[24] It has carried out investigations into local authority data handling, finding more than 1000 incidents in which councils lost information about children and those in care.[25]

Associated PeopleEdit


  1. ^ Ashford, Warwick (November 14, 2014). "Big Brother Watch calls for better NHS data security in light of losses". Computer Weekly. Civil liberties pressure group Big Brother Watch has called for ....
  2. ^ "About". Big Brother Watch. Retrieved November 15, 2014.
  3. ^ "Legal questions surround police use of facial recognition tech". Sky News. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  4. ^ Crime Editor, Fiona Hamilton (2017-08-15). "Body cameras for police have little impact on crime". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-01-19.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ a b Bowcott, Owen (2017-11-07). "UK intelligence agencies face surveillance claims in European court". Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  6. ^ Gallagher, Ryan (2017-11-07). "European Court to Decide Whether U.K. Mass Surveillance Revealed by Snowden Violates Human Rights". The Intercept. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  7. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (2016-11-19). "'Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  8. ^ "Contact". Big Brother Watch. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  9. ^ David Davis - and Tony Benn - speak at the launch of Big Brother Watch (registration required)
  10. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ "Cops' use of biometric images 'gone far beyond custody purposes'". Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  14. ^ "The quiet and creeping normalisation of facial recognition technology". Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  15. ^ "Security and Policing: Facial Recognition Technology - Hansard Online". Retrieved 2018-03-26.
  16. ^ "Don't Spy on Us". Don’t Spy on Us. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  17. ^ "The posters the Home Office doesn't want you to see". The Independent. 2016-05-10. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  18. ^ "71% of UK police forces refuse to provide data on digital evidence gathering – Big Brother Watch". Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  19. ^ "Brit cops slammed for failing to give answers on digital device data slurpage". Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  20. ^ "Privacy campaigners urge proof of body-worn camera footage benefits". Mail Online. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  21. ^ Pickles, Nick; Benbow, Stephanie (2012-09-12). "Is the use of CCTV cameras in schools out of hand? | Nick Pickles and Stephanie Benbow". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  22. ^ "Careless Whispers: How speech is policed by outdated communications legislation – Big Brother Watch". Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  23. ^ "Twitter joke trial law is being used to win easy convictions and must". The Independent. 2015-02-19. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  24. ^ Pickles, Nick (January 19, 2012). "Internet regulation could become McCarthy witch hunt". Archived from the original on June 5, 2013.
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b c "BIG BROTHER WATCH LIMITED - Overview (free company information from Companies House)". Retrieved 2018-12-13.

External linksEdit