Scotland Yard Secretly Tracking Activists

Civil liberties groups believe database on peaceful protesters may be illegal
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2009 10:05 AM CST
Photographers take pictures outside British police headquarters to protest new anti-terror legislation they claim could hamper journalists from taking pictures at public demonstrations, Feb. 16, 2009.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
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(Newser) – British human rights advocates have been alarmed to discover that Scotland Yard keeps a secret database on political activists, the Guardian reports. Surveillance teams have tracked and gathered information on protesters, including thousands of people not suspected of any crime. Personal information on the activists—including their political affiliation—is stored for 7 years and exchanged with other police forces.

Disclosures made under Britain's Freedom of Information act also reveal that the police surveillance teams, despite their repeated denials, have been monitoring members of the press. Civil liberties groups believe the police may be breaking the law by keeping information on innocent people. Evidence proving the database exists is expected to be the basis of a legal challenge to police surveillance techniques.