The newspaper says that many experts have been banned from participating in government-sponsored events for criticizing the Cabinet or the Prime Minister
The Observer reported on Saturday, citing a set of statements it had seen.
Government officials in each department had specific guidelines regulating exactly what they should look for and requiring them to collect and keep. “secret files” The newspaper said that the speakers were considered critics of the government.
Profiling typically involves checking a person’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts as well as performing a Google search on these individuals using specific keywords such as “Criticize the government or the Prime Minister.” Officials were then advised to examine up to 10 pages of search results or a period of three to five years, the report said.
The UK Department for Education – one of the parties involved in the profiling campaign, according to the Observer – flatly denied resorting to such practices in response to a freedom of information request submitted by the group Privacy International last year. The group was investigating government surveillance of social media at the time.
“Making a concerted effort to seek out negative information in this way is targeted surveillance.” Carolyn Wilson-Ballow, legal director of Privacy International, told the Observer:
Data relating to the practice was shared with the newspaper by a law firm, Leigh Day, which is currently taking legal action against the government on behalf of at least two people affected by the practice.
“This has likely affected large numbers of individuals, many of whom are unaware that civil servants are holding confidential files on them. Such practices are extremely dangerous.” Tessa Gregory, a partner at Leigh Day, told the Observer: The lawyer stressed that such hidden checks breach data protection laws and perhaps equality and human rights laws as well.
One of those who hired Lee Day was Dan Caszetta, a chemical weapons expert and associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), one of the UK’s leading security think tanks. “The full extent of this is shocking and may never be fully known. I was lucky enough to have clear and clear evidence.” He told the newspaper, adding that he knew of 12 other experts who discovered that the government had blacklisted them.
According to Casetta, he received a public apology from the government in July, and was informed in August that the 15 departments involved had withdrawn those guidelines pending a Cabinet Office review.
A Cabinet Office spokesman told the Observer that the government “Reviewing the guidance and temporarily withdrawing it to prevent any misinterpretation of the rules.”
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