From 2016-2018, the UK government tracked the personal information of 21,042 citizens, including adults and children, through PREVENT, a secret government database, Barry Mason reported for the World Socialist Website. 2011 legislation made it a “statutory duty” for the staff of schools, local authorities, prisons and the National Health Service to report “any individual deemed vulnerable to radicalization.” As WSWS reported, Liberty, an organization that defends civil liberties and promotes human rights, accessed information regarding police use of data collected under the program via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
This database is intended to help identify young people vulnerable to radicalization, and then provide support to them through voluntary deradicalization programs. However, most people’s information is stored indefinitely and shared without their consent or knowledge.
As Liberty reported, the FOI results showed that the police database includes “the sensitive personal information of every referral ever received by Prevent… (including) the vast majority of referrals which haven’t resulted in any deradicalization action—meaning potentially thousands of people have been entered into a secret Government database based purely on what they are perceived to think or believe.”
Ninety percent of all people referred to the program were not forwarded to the next stage of the process and two-thirds of these referrals are of children under the age of twenty.
Describing the PREVENT program as part of the “enormous strengthening of the state apparatus,” Mason wrote that, in the post-Brexit period, which is expected to entail attacks on living standards, including rights to health, education, and housing, PREVENT is likely to be used to monitor “all manner of opposition, including left-wing, socialist opposition.”
Source: Barry Mason, “UK Police Gain Access to Details of Thousands of Men, Women and Children Through Government’s PREVENT Database,” World Socialist Web Site, October 19, 2019, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/10/19/prev-o19.html.
Student Researcher: Jeramy Dominguez (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kathy Kelley (Sonoma State University)
Editors’ Note: For previous reporting by Project Censored on the UK’s PREVENT program, including how it has influenced domestic surveillance in the US, see FBI’s New Plan to Spy on High School Students across the Country, story #14 from Censored 2017.