[HacktionLab] Need advice on data privacy for Sheffield Tree Protest

naomi naomi at aktivix.org
Tue Jan 23 14:36:12 UTC 2018

Hello! Bit of a long one sorry, but any advice you can give is much

Here's the background if you haven't been following it: the local
council have contracted a private company called Amey to manage the
street infrastructure, and Amey have set about chopping down all our
well-loved street trees. There has been a lot of protest about it over
the years and now things are hotting up, with protestors jumping into
barriered zones to stop felling taking place. Various court cases
happened last year and Amey (or perhaps Sheffield Council, I'm not sure)
ended up with a civil injunction against anyone entering the zones. The
result is that people are still doing it, but are covering their faces
and trying to remain anonymous, as the civil injunction can only be
enforced if they know your name and address.

1. Protestors who do enter the zones are now routinely being physically
assaulted by private security who claim they are using "reasonable
force" to remove them, but often overstep the mark. When they report it
to the cops (who are usually present but not intervening), the cops say
that they cannot investigate a crime unless the victim supplies their
name and address. But they do not want to supply their name and address
because the are afraid that the police will pass it on to Amey or
Sheffield City Council. So I have few questions about this. Firstly, can
a victim report a crime without giving their details, or giving a
pseudonym? Secondly, can the victim request that their details not be
given to certain people? Are the victim's details automatically given to
the perpetrator of the crime? What are the rules about the police
sharing information with other parties? I am horrified that this is
basically a free-for-all for the private security to attack people
because they are afraid to deanonymise themselves.

2. Some protestors are concerned that Amey or private security personnel
might be using IMSI catchers to spy on them. I believe this is extremely
unlikely, because such companies will not have the tech or the
expertise, and would not take the risk of being prosecuted for it. Also
that if they are doing it, it is highly illegal, and if proved, someone
would go to jail and the company reputation would be stuffed. Is that

3. Suppose a protestor is summoned to court on suspicion of breaking the
injunction. Any photographic or video evidence would show them with face
covered, they would not be recognisable. Would they have a right so say
"no comment" when asked "is that you?" or would that be contempt of
court? I'm thinking that if the only way they were identified was via
illegal methods such as unauthorised data sharing or surveillance, then
the person bringing the case would not be able to show evidence proving
the identity.

Sorry to bother you with all this but there is so much paranoia,
conclusion-jumping and (most frighteningly) ignorance of rights and
submission to authority going on in this group of protestors, I feel
it's down to me to get some sense into them, which means getting some
sense into me first!


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