State surveillance of protest and the rights to privacy and freedom of assembly: a comparison of judicial and protester perspectives


  • Valerie Aston University of East Anglia


This paper considers the approach taken by the UK courts to the use of visible, overt police surveillance tactics in the context of political assemblies. Contrasting judicial attitudes to the direct experiences of protesters themselves, the paper argues that the narrow approach taken by the courts to questions of privacy, based on informational autonomy and the 'reasonable expectation of privacy' test, has led to the insufficient recognition of the psychological, social and political harms arising from intensive surveillance operations. The paper argues for a broader view of privacy, or in the alternative, a more robust application of the right to freedom of assembly, to protect protest mobilisations and assemblies from disruptive and intrusive aspects of overt state surveillance.

Keywords: Surveillance; overt photography; data-gathering; policing; privacy; intrusion; autonomy; freedom of assembly