From citizen scores to facial recognition – we’re fighting back!

13 November 2021 — Big Brother Watch

t’s been a busy few weeks at Big Brother Watch, as ever! Here’s a quick run down of what we’ve been doing to fight facial recognition, ‘no jab no job‘ policies, censorship, and citizen scoring in the welfare system.

We’re getting facial recognition out of schools

We were shocked but not surprised to find a number of schools rolling out facial recognition as a cashless payment system for children to buy their lunches. No child should have to undergo border-style security, with this dangerously authoritarian and discriminatory surveillance tech, just to be fed at school.

We hit the press and we sent urgent letters to schools setting out the serious legal issues and telling them to drop this intrusive technology.

Great news! After our action, every school we wrote to halted their use of facial recognition! This is a huge win for privacy – and we want to keep it that way, so we’ll be watching for any developments in this space…

Lord Paul Strasburger, who is the Chair of our Board, raised the issue in the House of Lords, warning that facial recognition in schools is “training our children to accept that their private data is not theirs.”

Meanwhile, our Director Silkie Carlo gave evidence on the shambolic use of facial recognition by the police to parliament’s Justice and Home Affairs Committee – warning that “tens of millions of Britons have already been subjected to facial recognition scans and don’t even know about it.”

Following our successful campaign, police haven’t used live facial recognition for almost two years now – but we think they’re gearing up to roll it out again. We’ll make sure you’re the first to know – and meanwhile, we’re building our campaign for an urgent ban.

Do you know of a school that is using facial recognition..? Contact us!

‘No jab, no job’? No sense!

Yesterday, the Government’s coercive vaccine mandate for care homes came into force, meaning tens of thousands of carers could be forced out of their jobs and lose their livelihoods, leaving care homes understaffed over winter. This week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid also announced that the Government will seek to make Covid vaccinations mandatory for frontline NHS staff from April.

We all want people in hospitals and care homes to be safe – but this policy ignores the fact that Covid-19 can be transmitted by both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. It risks serious staff shortages, erodes trust in favour of coercion, and signals a disturbing loss of medical privacy and bodily autonomy in our country. 

We’ve submitted evidence to the Department of Health outlining the serious rights risks that cause us to oppose mandatory vaccinations. 

The new law is yet to be published, but as soon as it is we’ll be on the frontline in parliament, telling MPs why they must vote against it.

Meanwhile, we’re pressing ahead with our legal challenge against mandatory Covid passes in Wales, which are now required in cinemas and theatres too. Thanks to your incredible support, hundreds of new supporters have backed our campaign against Covid passes – our strength is continuing to grow and we’re fighting to win!

Free speech in peril

From Channel 4 News to BBC Newsnight, we’ve been all over the airwaves defending free speech, and were called to give evidence to parliament’s Joint Committee scrutinising the Draft Online Safety Bill.

This Censors’ Charter merges government and Silicon Valley censorship powers over lawful speech if they deem it ‘harmful’ – empowering private companies like Facebook to be the speech police of the internet.

Our Director warned the Committee that this is “one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation for freedom of expression of recent years.

In our report ‘The State of Free Speech Online’ we outlined why this Bill will result in the state-sanctioned censorship of lawful speech online – on a magnitude never previously possible in a democracy. Read the report here.
Welfare surveillance

Do you, or does someone you know, receive Housing Benefit?

Find out your ‘risk’ score!

We uncovered the existence of a secret ‘fraud’ risk-scoring tool used by the DWP in our report, Poverty Panopticon. This hidden algorithm appallingly treats all benefits recipients as potential criminals. 

We believe computers could be using factors such as your age and gender to decide whether you’re a fraud risk. This is dangerous and wrong.

We need to dig further into how this secret algorithm works – and we need YOUR help.


Data protection law gives you the right to ask the government how your data is being used and what ‘risk score’ they’ve put by your name. You can do this by submitting a ‘Subject Access Request’. The government’s response to your Subject Access Request will give you much more detail about this secret algorithm than we can get anywhere else.

If you can share the response with us, we will treat it in total confidence and can help analyse your results. It would really help us to better understand this secret algorithm.

So if you want to find out your risk score, please click HERE or email us at for more information.

All of our hard work is made possible by our supporters. We’re only as strong as the support we have, so please consider joining us today.

This is a perilous time for civil liberties in the UK. Although we are facing a barrage of threats to our rights, with your help we can fight back – and fight to win.

Thank you,

Erlend Evans
Digital Communications Manager

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