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'EU Big Brother planning to watch you more closely'

The Local · 15 Jul 2009, 14:39

Published: 15 Jul 2009 14:39 GMT+02:00

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EU ministers are gathering in Stockholm this week to advance their work on the Stockholm Programme, a five-year plan they claim is designed to make it easier to catch criminals and keep Europe’s citizens safe.

But despite soothing words from politicians about the programme’s virtues, it’s critical for EU citizens to stand up now and protest against the threat it presents to privacy and individual rights.

On the surface, the Stockholm Programme’s professed set of goals may appear somewhat benign – perhaps even sensible –with its calls for increased cooperation to fight terrorism and organized cross-border crime.

But we’ve already got a pretty good idea that the kinds of measures under consideration for meeting the Stockholm Programme’s goals are anything but benign.

In short, we’re talking about increased surveillance which tramples on the privacy rights of individuals and about higher walls being constructed around Europe’s borders.

Last summer, a number of details about the concrete steps associated with the Stockholm Programme were leaked from the EU’s so-called Future Group in connection with a meeting of EU justice ministers in Nice.

While the drafters of the Stockholm Programme profess it is a tool that will aid the “free movement of people” within the EU, there is very little about one’s movements that will remain “free” if EU ‘securocrats’ are allowed to implement the sorts of measures hinted at in the Future Group document.

Among other things, the leaked Future Group document envisages “new and more flexible expulsion and surveillance measures” which would make it easier for states across Europe to gather increasingly detailed information about citizens and their movements, as well as block the entry of others.

Moreover, the authors also discuss the need for “increased synergies between police and security intelligence services” across Europe, meaning that information gathered by local law enforcement in Piteå could eventually end up in the hands of counter-terrorism agents in Palermo.

Are we really “free” if our movements are tracked by the state and that information can end up being read by any intelligence or law enforcement agency in Europe?

Will we be “free” if the state has access to information about our banking habits, internet use, and can pinpoint our location using mobile phone data?

Whatever happened to the notion that the citizens of Europe could go about their business without having Big Brother continually tapping them on the shoulder and watching them with a suspicious eye?

While the indications we’ve seen so far about the plans for fulfilling the Stockholm Programme are frightening, it’s still early enough in the process for the citizens of Europe to make their voices heard.

While demonstrators plan on taking to the streets in Stockholm, we here at the European Parliament in Brussels are getting ready to fight the next round from within the system.

It’s going to be a long, difficult autumn for us privacy advocates and bloggers as we do battle to make sure some of the more intrusive proposals don’t end up making it into the final document, which is expected to be presented for signature in December by heads of state and government EU Summit in Stockholm.

And even in the years after the programme is adopted, those of us who support privacy rights will have to be vigilant regarding additional measures which will likely be debated in reference to the Stockholm Programme.

But what’s important now is that we, at an early stage, show how we feel and are clear about what concerns us.

Story continues below…

If the politicians don't meet with some resistance, they’ll never put the brakes on the Stockholm Programme before it ends up in a train wreck of invasive measures which all but wipe out any notion of personal privacy and integrity among the citizens of Europe.

It’s exciting to see how many activists have been mobilized so far by these important issues of privacy and individual rights. And it’s important to protest. If we don’t, politicians won’t realize that they’ve stepped over the line.

So get out and demonstrate! Blog, write, and shout to show everyone in the capitals of Europe as well as the European capital that privacy is an important right for every individual in the 27 member states of the European Union,

If we don’t speak loudly now, we may find our views barely able to utter a whisper without the Big Brother of Europe holding his hand across our mouths.

Henrik Alexandersson is one of Sweden's best known political bloggers. He was recently recruited by the Swedish Pirate Party to work an advisor in Brussels to newly elected MEP Christian Engström.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:32 July 16, 2009 by here for the summer
I don't understand resistance to this Stockholm program. As a law abiding person with young children my biggest concern is the safety and security of my family. It seems that coordination between the free governments of Europe will enhance the security of all people. Look at these headlines gangs and murders. True this is a small subset of the population but isn't that the point. By allowing the police and governments more ability to track these people across borders we will all be safer.
11:17 July 16, 2009 by LazyDog
Yes i have to agree with your post "here for the summer" To many crooks getting away with murder. I'm all for it, some times i don't feel safe going out after dark.
12:56 July 16, 2009 by Britswedeguy
Snooping on my emails won't make you feel any safer at night, it will however make feel oppressed. Don't make me a victim of your paranoia.
17:32 July 16, 2009 by DAVID T
Could it be that Mr Alexandersson has something to hide? If you've commited no crime you have nothing to worry about.
21:44 July 16, 2009 by LazyDog
Britswedeguy" Don't make me a victim of your paranoia." Sounds to me like you are already paranoid. I was thinking more about the cameras then the email snooping. I don't send or get any emails worth reading anyway. But as a lot of people getting raped and beaten up, would make it easier for the law maybe to catch some.Its a shame we cant get to see all the crimes that are happening, if you did you maybe change your attitude.
23:32 July 16, 2009 by Peanuts
This article said the Stockholm Programme was a response to

"calls for increased cooperation to fight terrorism and organized cross-border crime."

It in no way proposes to save you from getting raped or beaten up.

The author says "those of us who support privacy rights will have to be vigilant regarding additional measures which will likely be debated in reference to the Stockholm Programme.

This I believe is an absolutely essential stance for all.
23:52 July 16, 2009 by Staffs
David T says "If you've commited no crime you have nothing to worry about".

Okay David, I'll be round your place tonight wanting to look through your partner's knicker drawer and your wallet, after all, if you got nothing to hide then you've got nothing to fear, right?

Your response may be that my argument is ridiculous because your partner's knickers are private, but that is the argument you see, privacy is all subjective, isn't it.

Me, I've got my privacy to hide, just as you have your partner's knickers to keep under wraps.
00:42 July 17, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
Good, can you please set up a webcam in your bedroom then? Since you have nothing to hide this shouldn't be a concern to you...
00:45 July 17, 2009 by Bender B Rodriquez
No online bank accounts that the Swedish tax office might be interested in?
01:06 July 17, 2009 by Plowbridge H. Broad
There is only one reason you want a webcam in his bedroom. Pathetic perverted moron.
08:17 July 17, 2009 by andelyd
There are many cases in history where just being "yourself" is criminal. The argument "I am not doing anything wrong..." is just infantile.

For example the gay movement. In Sweden it was illegal to be gay. If you were found out to be gay you could be forced to sterilization and to "torture" in mental hospitals to became "straight". This was going on until the 60'es! It was only because people had the right to their privacy and the right to anonymous communication the gay movement could take shape and eventually become legal.

So please. Everyone has something to be feared by having constant and complete surveillance over everyone.

The world is a lot more complicated than "I do not have anything to hide so I am safe"
09:27 July 17, 2009 by jack sprat
I doubt if the powers that be are sick or perverted enough to spend their time watching ppls.bedrooms and as for thinking on-line bank accounts are any big secret then you must be living in a dream World.

Only those with something to hide need to be concerned.
09:53 July 17, 2009 by andelyd
Do you know what government we will have tomorrow?

Look at Hitler during his era. He was VOTED to power by the people. Then he gradually limited peoples freedoms, restricting what political parties were legal (and illegal). Eventually he used the

democratic system to create the Nazi Germany and hunted the Jews... So by creating these vast-going systems to monitor (and control!) what we do is extremely dangerous. It is not about file sharing. It is about the core of a democratic system. Democracy needs to be monitored and criticised by its members/the people. It needs to be stretched and pulled at the seams to be and remain healthy. If we require everyone to do and think just as everyone else then we will stop being a democracy!

Certainly, it is not just "people with things to hide" that needs to be concerned.
09:57 July 17, 2009 by Jive Turkey Daddy
FEAR is big business! Just think for a few minutes how many jobs there are that revolve around peoples fears.

Of course its great to track international criminals but surely agencies do that already...Interpol etc..

You may personally have nothing to hide today but perhaps down the line you may disagree with the Goverment or EU agenda...You send an email to your friend discussing it...eg: you dont want your children to be forced to have swine flu jabs or to pay the carbon tax....next thing you know they are at your door telling you that under the ''Stockholm programme code'' you are a terrorist for being a non-conformist and must come with them!!!

The 'Pirates' are right to think ahead and question this...and any potential ''add ons''
10:05 July 17, 2009 by andelyd
Another thing that proves that the governments are lying about their agendas. They are saying the biggest reason too enforce FRA, IPRED, censorship, etc, is to fight child pornography and paedophiles and severe organized crime. But when looking at how they spend their money - they have recently employed twice as many police to find file-sharers than to find child pornography!

Also look at France with their HADOPI law. It is all about going the media/large corporates ways rather than actually spending the equal efford to fight child porn or organized crimes. You are considered guilty unless you prove otherwise!
10:06 July 17, 2009 by jack sprat
Why the extreme paranoia?

There has to be a sensible middle way to safeguard security without getting to the point of prying into ppls.every thought.
10:06 July 17, 2009 by here for the summer
The article said "calls for increased cooperation to fight terrorism and organized cross-border crime." organized crime is in fact the type of thing that affects us all and can get us beat up ( like the gang murder here) or be victims like the credit card scam. Sweden and Swedes seem to be rightly in favor of peoples rights but what about the rights of people to be protected from crime? Doesn't that mean something too? These examples of knickers and web cams are "straw man" arguments that don't deny the point that Europe and all European countries need good borders control and cooperation between law enforcement to help keep all it's people safe. To allow free unimpeded travel between countries of the EU requires trust that the external and common borders are being enforced.
20:07 July 17, 2009 by hagbardC
They are not straw man arguments.

There is absolutely no reason why the government should be able to intrude on someone's privacy under the false guise of "security".

Are people really so dense to believe that this is going to somehow halt gang crime and credit card scams? Not so likely. And even if it did, it still wouldn't be worth my loss of privacy and freedom.

It really astounds me how many people shrug it off and say, "well I'm not doing anything wrong" or "well if you don't like it maybe you have something to hide!"

Seems like a lot of people haven't yet figured out that laws change. Just because you aren't doing anything wrong now doesn't mean you won't be later. Maybe you like to smoke? Maybe 10 years down the road that will be illegal. Then you will have something to hide. Do you really think the government should dictate what is wrong and what is right? Or should you, a competent adult decide that for yourself.
20:12 July 17, 2009 by conboy
I agree Hagbard the record shows that authorities in all jurisdictions tend to abuse powers which are not adequately monitored independently. There is no scope for this in terms of the legislation currently going before the parliaments of all of the EU members.
21:22 July 17, 2009 by moaca
But aren't we all glad if a surveillance camera records a crime, like your mum being mugged and they can arrest the responsible people thanks to the footage?

Or when somebody's head is being kicked in without reason and thanks to the camera footage the authorities can identify them?

Or when somebody gets killed, say by crossing the road and a car hits them and flees and that person can be traced? We all want justice when we are being hit with tragedy, dont we.

Is that not the whole purpose of having surveillance camera's? Or do you really think the government has got the time and resources to check the private life of each individual in Sweden? The UK has the highest density of camera's in the world and they are being used in resolving crimes all the time.
22:00 July 17, 2009 by hagbardC
Maybe, but you are arguing based on principal, not practice. In practice, it will be abused.

The UK is quickly dissolving into a police state, and everyone knows it. It also does not seem to be doing much to drop crime rates. If you want to cut down on crime, you've got to increase education and fix economic problems. Adding security cameras just pisses people off.

Nobody likes being watched and monitored, including the majority of people posting in this thread. It is a very unsettling feeling. Sometimes these cameras might help, but you'd be foolish to think they aren't going to be abused by some authority figure down the line (if not immediately.)

I think its a terrible idea for a government to have to monitor its populace. What kind of a place is that? Why would anyone want to live anywhere where you actually need cameras all over the place to feel safe? And I wonder how many children would actually like the idea of being monitored wherever they go.
22:20 July 17, 2009 by Gwrhyr
Sounds like Europe's own Patriot Act.

I'm amazed how many people will support anything that promises to fight crime without anayzing the measures being proposed. If we did not have the past few centuries of loosening surveillance, the Reformation wouldn't have happened, people would still be forced to live according to arbitrary rules of the past.

Privacy is an extremely important component of the Englitenment upon which modern Western civilization is largely based. European governments are already fighting cross-border crime, they do not need to increase cooperation if that increased cooperation includes more tools for the security forces to scan through innocent people's e-mails, cell phones, etc.

The Stockholm Programme is creepy and unnecessary. It only takes away from Europeans' civil liberties as did the Patriot Act in the USA.
22:55 July 17, 2009 by conboy
I agree the thing is that there is parallel legislation being introduced as we speak in the parliaments of all of the EU members - the Irish legislation is almost a direct copy of the Swedish proposals when translated. The actual practical fall out is not neing debated anywhere outside of Sweden - the wartime mentality is contributing to this. The Swedes are in Afghanistan , the Irish have troops in Chad on the border with the Sudan and the UK and France are engaged in war all over the place from Somalia and Chad to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Indian Ocean. Politicians and the general public fold easily in the face of the current atmosphere. Even the civil liberties argument here has more to do with internet facilities than actual free speech at large.
01:11 July 18, 2009 by Coalbanks
Public places belong to the guardians of the public. Big Brother can't protect you if he does not know where you are at all times, whom you are with, what you are doing, when...Maybe we should be loyal members of society & provide an itinerary of intended movements daily? How about a personal ID chip in our ...cell phones, lap top computers, credit/debit cards or passports or driver liscences or National Individual Identity Card (call it what you will). Hej! Isn't that already happening?
12:36 July 18, 2009 by here for the summer
i would like to dispute a few statements. 1) I would give up some privacy to increase the security of my family. We all do this to some extend when we decide to live in a group in society. This is a sliding scale and hopefully a democracy will chose the will of the people and find a good balance which provide security which means identifying and separating from society those people who steal from or assault other people. 2) UK is not a police state and the cameras have been helpful in solving and preventing crimes. Sweden has a higher crime rate when compared to other modern countries so maybe the slide should could move more towards security here and many of it's citizens would prefer lower crime and somewhat less privacy. In the UK I don't know a a single case of the cameras being used for any snooping purposes. 3) The government ( which is all of us in a democracy ) already decides what is right or wrong.
12:46 July 18, 2009 by Inletwatcher
In Florida about 8 years ago there was a little girl abducted coming home from her friends house, not 4 blocks from her home. No leads, no trace..just a missing little girl. On the following Monday a business owner came in, opened up his car wash...and watched some of the footage that was taped during his absence. To his horror, he watched as a man getting out of his car **in plain view of the camera ...grabs this little girl by the wrist and leads her to his car screaming. He could not believe his eyes.

Long painful story a bit shorter, Police were able to get a good look at the guy, the license plate of his car..thus leading finally to the beaten, sexually abused body of the little girl that was dumped in a church yard. Her body was found on Superbowl Sunday. I will never forget it...I was making hotwings for my group of footballers.

The perp is on death row as I type.

11:52 July 20, 2009 by lungfish
Regarding: "Or do you really think the government has got the time and resources to check the private life of each individual in Sweden?" of course computers can run through vast amounts of data very quickly, and governments do have supercomputers trolling very large databases constantly. This can be for targeted search (e.g. by personnummer and all related associations, such as bank accounts, credit cards, purchases, such as mobile telephone numbers, which can locate you by cell position in the network, etc.) or using automated pattern identification and classification programs.

There is no such thing as a neutral government. A government can be guided by marketing and corporate interests, by specific religious agendas, by ideologies, etc.. What you perceive as being 'neutral' is the ideology that is most familiar to you.
12:21 July 20, 2009 by totyis
If Stockholm Programme is such a big issue and if we have a democracy then the people should vote; if not, then take it as it's served.
12:24 July 20, 2009 by conboy
Horrible as the father of a little girl there is only one way of dealing with scum like that - and it is not prison or hospital.
15:37 July 20, 2009 by ShaneW
I can see merit in all the arguments, theory and philosophy is one thing but if a terrorist atrocity is foiled because of these measures then I am all for it.

We know there is a lot of 'chatter' online from various extremist groups, if monitoring can pick up some of this and help support the fight against terrorism worldwide then the argument for privacy comes a long way down, sorry!

Ask yourself, if the London tube bombings could have been prevented by the spooks reading your mail would you still have had a problem with them 'snooping' through your mail?
03:45 July 21, 2009 by Weekend_warrior
"Any person who would give up a little freedom, for a little security, deserves neither and will lose both." - Benjamin Franklin

I am comment #31 and I can't believe I am the first one to post it.

In regards to others comments on here. No agency has the brute force to read every email, sms, web chat, and phone conversation. My guess is it will be something similar to what google already has in place. ever notice how their advertisements relate to keywords in your emails? as well as your searches?

There will be no webcams in bedrooms. Just CCTV cams like you already have all over London and various other cities.
10:16 July 21, 2009 by BlackfDes

So what´s the big issue with increased surveillance?

What a great way for the people to make free silent movies!

All you have to do is organise your cast, act out the scenes, and then request the relevant footage from the Government. A bit of editing and BINGO you have produced your first silent movie!

Surely this is an example of the EU expanding the potential for cultural experiences!


The Black One

ps I am all for surveillance cameras if helps catch bad persons and makes the streets safer.
09:02 July 23, 2009 by Fodak
RE:10:32 July 16, 2009 by here for the summer

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

- Benjamin Franklin
09:51 July 23, 2009 by Kieruk
I love how we are quoting someone who dies in 1790...

Something tells me the world has moved on a little since then...
10:02 July 23, 2009 by conboy
I wish I could share your confidence...
10:12 July 23, 2009 by Kieruk
Hmmmm..ok...well moved on at least in terms of Technology and Global threats..?
10:54 July 23, 2009 by Fodak
09:51 July 23, 2009 by Kieruk

You do not secure the liberty of our country and value of our democracy by undermining them, that's the road to hell

- Lord Phillips of Sudbury

10:59 July 23, 2009 by Kieruk
Ok, much newer!

But when did he say this? Was he actually referring to the increased security?

If we vote for increased security, surely we are not undermining liberty or democracy?
12:16 July 23, 2009 by Fodak
Trust is good, controll is better.

- Josef Stalin
15:59 July 23, 2009 by here for the summer
Interesting you mention Stalin. If you look at say what China is doing. Shutting down the whole internet in areas when they have a problem or changing all search engines like google so you nothing turns up when you google democracy. ( I've been there and tried i know ) Or in Iran where they shut down texting and internet access now. You can see that if a police state emerges you have no power at all and whether you have cameras or monitoring. So in my eyes the challenge is to prevent police states emerging whether theocracy like Iran or communist like China. Why don't we work on that?
16:03 July 23, 2009 by Kieruk

Are you for this or against it...or what?

I cant really tell from your post at all!
16:25 July 23, 2009 by here for the summer
Sorry i wasn't clear. My point 1) restricting the amount of state security in liberal democracies does little to prevent the abuses of a police state. In fact restricting the ability of those democracies to track terrorists and other threats to the democracy might in some small way prevent them from defending themselves against the emergence of a police state. 2) We should speak out against police states and oppression not niggle over small issues in our democracies. So I think that more security is needed to find and track international criminals and terrorists. I would also feel safer with more street security in cities and public transport.
09:06 July 24, 2009 by km37575801
are the proposed cameras going to be placed in public places? this is an area where anyone could film you on a video camera, right?so what freedom are you exactly giving up?would not an action against you by the government be taken only in the course of an act against the law?what do you have to be concerned about?in the age of micro cameras,cell phones with video cameras and pics that can be sent anywhere in a minute or less,why are you so concerned?these cameras only make it easier, quicker, and more accurate in the prevention and solving of a crime.protect yourself and your loved ones by letting this pass,but as any good citizen keep your eyes open and yourselves informed as to the workings of the government.
15:28 July 24, 2009 by Johnluke
EU is not the only one watching. In the US they call it 511. 511 has been around for over 15 yrs. Their are stop lights that are inconspicuous at interstate entrences that are never used for over 15yrs...and cameras all over. And most banks require thumb prints when cashing checks, and now swipe drivers licences. I don't think they want to look at the individual in the US as much as have the information available on a whim if they want it.

The lawmakers in the US make laws for laws already on the books that are not inforced. In the US, fees, licences, and price controls make it hard for the working man or woman to make anything. Most citizens are not aware of it. The land of the free is not so free anymore!

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