News Datacide 17, Pt. 3: Surveillance, Control and Repression

An unnamed person who previously worked for a secret UK Metropolitan police intelligence unit alleged in a letter sent to Green party official Jenny Jones that the police were regularly reading the emails of activists, including four from Greenpeace UK, and journalists, including two from The Guardian, as part of surveillance operations. The Met’s access to the email accounts was acquired by using hacked passwords obtained by hackers employed by Indian police.

After the Westminster and London Bridge terrorist attacks in London, Prime Minister Theresa May in June 2017 proposed new anti-terrorism measures: amending human rights laws; increasing the length of time police can hold suspects without charges; further restricting the freedom and movement of suspects through house arrest, curfew, forced relocation, and creating ‘exclusion zones’ of public spaces where the suspects are not allowed to go or enter; further reducing access to communications (phone, internet, etc.); increasing the ease and number of forcible deportations; and increasing prison sentences for terrorism-related offenses. The Investigatory Powers Act was enacted into law in December 2016, which requires web and phone companies to retain everyone’s web browsing histories and communication data records for phones and texts for up to two years, as well as forcing companies to bypass or alter encryption services like Whatsapp and Signal used by named and targeted ‘terrorism’ suspects. [Read more →]

Education in England – An Update

[This piece is an update to the article The Marketisation of Mass Education in England published in datacide fifteen.]

“When it comes to K through 12 education (4 – 18 years old), we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be trans-formed by big break-throughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

Rupert Murdoch, Press Release
November 2010

The opening up of the education market to private providers has reached something of a stand-still or a stand-off in England over the last year. A government White Paper in April 2016 proposed that all schools become academies by 2022. A few weeks later the government abandoned this because of enormous resistance to the idea amongst teachers, parents and local councils. However, there is still plenty of momentum to the ongoing outsourcing and diversifying of state social services e.g. Richard Branson’s ‘Virgin Care’ has been given a seven year £700 million contract for adult social care in Bath and Somerset by the National Health Service; this is the first time a council’s core adult social work services will be directly delivered by a for-profit private firm.
The great majority of secondary schools are now overseen by private organisations of one sort or another and not the local council. The next phase of this re-structuring of provision should be aimed at primary schools (only 13% academies in March 2016) but a number of factors have slowed down the rapid pace of reform.

Firstly, there has been a constant stream of lurid stories in the press about the mismanagement of academies and academy chains. In 2015 seven ‘financial notices to improve’ were handed out to academy trusts; in 2016 this number has risen to twenty five. The Times Educational Supplement had a feature recently (TES 14.10.16) about five academy head teachers who have all fallen from grace: [Read more →]