Privacy-friendly judges?

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Paul Bernal's Blog

Supreme court sealYesterday’s ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, requiring the police to get a warrant before accessing a suspect’s mobile phone data, was remarkable in many ways. It demonstrated two things in particular that fit within a recent pattern around the world, one which may have quite a lot to do with the revelations of Edward Snowden. The first is that the judiciary shows a willingness and strength to support privacy rights in the face of powerful forces, the second is an increasing understanding of the way that privacy, in these technologically dominated days, is not the simple thing that it was in the past.

The stand-out phrase in the ruling is remarkable in its clarity:

13-132 Riley v. California (06/25/2014)

“Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans “the privacies of life,”…

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No more austerity: are protests ‘news’?

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Paul Bernal's Blog

On Saturday 21st June the People’s Assembly, Trade Unions and campaigning groups held what they described as a ‘national demonstration and free festival’ to ‘demand’ an alternative to austerity. As expressed on the People’s Assembly website:

“Living standards continue to drop, forcing millions into poverty, yet the politicians remain addicted to austerity.

This demonstration will assemble right on the BBC’s doorstep and march to Parliament to demand that the alternative to austerity is no longer ignored. Join us.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 09.03.22

50,000 or more people did join them, including Russell Brand, Green MP Caroline Lucas and others. And yet the result, at least as far as the BBC was concerned, was that the protest, and the alternative to austerity was ignored. On the day, the BBC gave it no coverage at all, to the fury of the protest organisers and the radical twittersphere. Eventually the BBC did put up a cursory mention…

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British values?

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Paul Bernal's Blog

Whenever I hear the words ‘British values’ it sends shivers down my spine – and gives me a deep sense of suspicion as to the motives of those using the words. Michael Gove’s evocation is the latest but he’s far from alone – a good deal of UKIP’s ‘appeal’ rests on some kind of a sense of ‘British values’, while Labour are just as guilty of it as the Tories.

Perhaps I’m jaundiced – and perhaps it’s something about my age – but I’m also always reminded of the excellent Tom Robinson song ‘Power in the Darkness’, which sums it up for me. The key part is this:

“Today, institutions fundamental
To the British system of government are under attack
The public schools, the house of lords
The church of England, the holy institution of marriage
Even our magnificent police force are no longer safe
From those who would undermine…

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