More than 1,500 people attended a public meeting on Saturday to discuss how increasing UK government surveillance is eroding individuals' freedom and privacy.
Government officials, journalists, authors and privacy experts used the Convention of Modern Liberty to call on British citizens to defend the privacy of their data, and to campaign against the growing use of government databases and data collection.
"The idea was not to form another civil liberties organisation, but to spark a political movement by laying out an argument and the facts of Labour's erosion of our constitutional rights," said staunch liberty rights campaigner Henry Porter in a column in The Observer.
Porter explained that the campaign had been fuelled partly by the actions of justice secretary Jack Straw, whom he labelled "one of the enemies of democracy ", owing to his Coroners and Justice Bill that lifts the Data Protection Act ban on information sharing between ministries.
The Convention of Modern Liberty was held at the Institute for Education in London, and there were parallel regional and national meetings in Belfast, Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow and Manchester.
Among the 22 focus sessions was a discussion called 'Business Gets Personal, Can Privacy Have a Future?', centring on how the web has revolutionised commerce and advertising, and how online businesses have access to worryingly large amounts of consumer data. The convention asked whether data should be considered safe in the hands of such corporations, and whether consumers should have a choice on who collects data and where it ends up.
Deputy information commissioner David Smith discussed how resources at the Information Commissioner's Office are generally focused on the private sector, and questioned whether more funds should be given to the public sphere.
Another session called 'The Database State and Transformational Government' discussed the dangers of unifying electronic records from different state departments.
Keynote speakers included Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, author Philip Pullman and politician David Davis, who suggested that the role and reach of the government in society is now "out of control".
Davis pointed to DNA collection, surveillance, the creation of large databases and software that can identify where a car is driven in the country as examples of how the balance of power between the state and citizen is changing.
"Piece by piece everybody's liberties, privacy and rights are eroded. Now what we have to do is fight every single one," he said.
Michael Wills, minister of state for the Ministry of Justice, claimed that the government needs to achieve a balance of maintaining citizens' liberty while securing their wellbeing.
Conservative minister Damian Green, meanwhile, criticised the government for making criminals of "everyone who takes a photo of a policeman or sensitive building".
"Have these people never heard of Google Earth?", he asked. "The state is reaching for big databases and big IT solutions as a magic wand to solve the problems of the 21st century. They won't do that, but what they will do is erode vital conservative freedoms."
Green argued that the British people should be alerted to the dangers that large databases pose to their freedom.
Finally, left-wing politician Tony Benn maintained that UK citizens are " under attack" and called for a counterattack.
"The government thinks that, by implying that there could be a terrorist attack in your street every week, you have to give up your rights that we've fought for so hard in previous generations," he said.
The Convention of Modern Liberty urges members to make a personal commitment not to comply with the National Identity Scheme, opt out of the NHS Summary Care Record programme, reclaim DNA held in the National DNA database, and petition against the government taking biometric information from young children.
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