18 – 20 May Update

POLICING

The Metropolitan Police has been criticised for stop and search during the lockdown, with figures showing an increase in the tactic during April. Police say additional resources have been placed into proactive patrols. Ria Chatterjee from ITV spoke to Sayce Holmes-Lewis, a youth worker who was targeted last week. He has since been raising awareness of the unjust treatment by police, aiming to educate our young people how to navigate issues such as this.

Further detail on the “postcode lottery” of coronavirus fines, with Thames Valley Police issuing the second highest number of fixed penalty notices in England: 866 penalty notices – only 40 less than the Metropolitan Police.

North Yorkshire Police have issued more fines for breaches of the Coronavirus regulations in Scarborough than any other region in the county, the latest figures show.

Although it has been made clear that the police are no longer able to try and control social distancing, officers in Somerset are still warning people for failing to do so.

In the north of Ireland, a human rights review was launched into the police response to the pandemic.

Devon & Cornwall Police were in the top four police forces for issuing coronavirus fines ( 799 between March 27 and May 11) but a scrutiny panel set up by the local Police and Crime Commissioner has said the force used its powers “legitimately, appropriately and proportionately”. The full report can be found here (PDF). We await further information whether any of the 44 cases under the Coronavirus Act that were found to have been incorrectly charged (because there was no evidence they covered potentially infectious people) were from the two counties, or what impact any potential review of fixed penalty notices may have on this positive judgment.

In London, protesters from Extinction Rebellion managed to find a way around current movement restrictions by placing more than 2000 pairs of children’s shoes in neat rows across Trafalgar Square.

LEGAL

Although Parliament has still not returned to full session because of physical distancing measures, the government is pushing ahead with the reintroduction of control orders, which would restrict the movements of suspected terrorists and could be renewed indefinitely. The new legislation in changes would “roll back the years” to the more restrictive regime that existed before control orders were abolished in 2011, according to Jonathan Hall QC, the current independent reviewer of terrorism laws. The move has been criticised by Liberty.

SURVEILLANCE

What’s the NHS-BigTech COVID-19 datastore? Where are the contracts? Big Brother Watch has put out an open letter with a coalition of digital rights advocates, to urge the NHS to answer questions about its new COVID-19 datastore built with companies like Palantir, Faculty, Amazon and Microsoft.

This might become the new normal: A surveillance society, where the NHS App, ‘enhanced’ by facial recognition tech, creates a two-tier system in which people with digital immunity passports certified “risk-free” can move more freely.

A contact tracing project that is “set to ask many thousands of people who have fallen ill to share the details of their friends and acquaintances” is in hands of an outsourcing company that cannot manage the most basic data security: Serco apologises for sharing contact tracers’ email addresses.

Another company, Sitel, is running a programme to train thousands of contact-tracers to help control the spread of coronavirus that has been described as shambolic and inadequate by recruits.

On Monday, Jenny Jones asked HMG what steps they are taking to address privacy concerns about (1) the use of the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing application, and (2) the introduction of immunity certificates. She did not receive a proper answer. The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Lord Bethell, could only come up with obligate promises on transparency, referring to the open-source code used.

Your face mask selfies could be training the next facial recognition tool. Researchers are crawling the internet for photos of people wearing face masks to improve facial recognition algorithms.

In Spain, smart lampposts are being used to check for crowding on beaches in the coronavirus crisis, a development we await to see repeated in Britain over the coming months.

RESOURCES

HIV-AIDS taught us not to police a disease outbreak. Did the lesson stick? Alex McClelland shares his thoughts with GlobalNews from Canada. He also co-created Policing the Pandemic, a mapping project launched in April to track the ways in which COVID-19 orders are, or aren’t, being enforced nationwide.

The Monitoring Group’s Adam Elliot-Cooper speaks to United Borders about policing and Covid-19, in Rona Report.

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