Surveillance by the State – Data Collection and Human Rights?

The recent uprising and overtaking of the Afghanistan government by the Taliban has caused human right concerns to be pushed to the forefront of the world’s eyes and mind.. Data collection and storage may have devastating consequences for the citizens of Afghanistan.

Following Donald Trump’s deal with Taliban officials, Joe Biden still plans to withdraw all American Troops by 31 August with the UK aiming to remove troops but with no fixed date to help prevent a “humanitarian crisis”.[1] The Taliban has suggested the data will be held for the aim of reducing voter and welfare fraud with new surveillance measures due to be implemented, including, digital identity cards for Afghan citizens and the use of biometric information – fingerprinting, iris scans and facial recognition; these potentially supporting Edward Snowden’s 2013 suggestion that surveillance is a mere “keystroke away from totalitarianism”.[2]

Protecting Afghan Citizens:

Human Rights First – a human rights charity – has released a guide of how to avoid the misuse of biometric data and erasing your digital footprint for Afghan citizens;[3] this could be critical for survival, with some individuals now being persecuted for posting anti-Taliban content.[4]

The Human Rights Argument:

This, however is not an alien technology. Traditionally viewed ‘democratic’ societies like the US or UK use these forms of surveillance to protect their own citizens, but to what extent should this power be allowed to exist?

Subject to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as  expressed in the Human Rights Act 1998,[5] is that

“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home or his correspondence.”

This right is not to be interfered with by the state, however, there are the lawful excuses of necessity for reasons of “national security” and “public safety” amongst others. But how can a matter of public safety be accurately defined? In a democratic society the technologies may be used to prevent extremism or potential terror threats. In Afghanistan the same measures are being used to hunt-down citizens who do not promote the same values as the Taliban –which leads to the question could the same argument be used? Taliban officials may view Western ideals of democracy as a threat national security, therefore their actions would be justified as they were acting “for the prevention of disorder and crime”.


In the paperless age, we all should become more concerned with how governments are handling our data. Gone are the days of in-person destruction of files, with more advanced systems required to ensure data is adequately protected. Remote data destruction is a necessity so that devices are no longer accessible to those who would misuse private information. As the coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan, these protections should have been enforced to prevent the theft of data leading to potential loss of life.

[1] Faulker, ‘Afghanistan: PM to press Biden to delay Kabul withdrawal’ [Accessed: 23 August 2021]

[2] Naughton, “Beware state surveillance of your lives – governments can change for the worse” Beware state surveillance of your lives – governments can change for the worse | John Naughton | The Guardian [Accessed: 23 August 2021].

[3] Human Rights First, [Accessed: 23 August 2021].

[4] Lockhurst, “Taliban ‘carrying out door-to-door manhunt’” [Accessed: 23 August 2021].

[5] Human Rights Act 1998, Schedule 1: The Articles.

Warren v DSG: the end of data breach litigation for claimant firms?


A recent decision made in the High Court may significantly limit data breach litigation by claimant firms.


When a business suffers a data breach involving the personal data of its customers, claimant firms seek to sign up affected customers, issuing multiple claims for damages. Such claims are often for breach of the UK GDPR, breach of confidence, misuse of private information and negligence backed by confidential fee arrangements and After the Event (“ATE) insurance. Due to the perceived complexity of data claims and cost exposure created by ATE premiums, claimant firms have opted to create their own business model fuelled by out-of-court settlements.


In the case of Warren v DSG,[1] the defendants – Currys PC World (“DSG”) – suffered an external attack which resulted in the compromise of c. 10 million customer records, and a £500,000 fine by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office for violating the seventh data protection principle under the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) by not implementing appropriate security measures.


The claimant is one of these customers, who sought £5,000 for breach of the DPA (now replaced by the UK GDPR), breach of confidence, misuse of private information and negligence. Following claims for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and negligence being dismissed, the claimants were left with only a UK GDPR claim.


Such claims were dismissed for the following reasons: (1) all of the causes of action required some positive wrongful action to be taken, and there was no positive wrongful action in such circumstances as DSG was the passive victim of an attack, thus had not intentionally facilitated the data breach; (2) such actions do not impose any form of duty on DSG; and (3) there was no clinically recognised psychiatric harm in order to find a claim in negligence.[2]


The decision in Warren v DSG will have now considerably simplify the defence of similar claims, as well as making it increasingly difficult for claimant firms to recover ATE premiums in such cases due to the lack of a privacy claim, undermining the business model of claimant firms.


The judgement can be read here:


[1] Darren Lee Warren v DSG Retail Limited [2021] EWHC 2168 (QB)


New Government Regulations Predict First UK Space Launch to Take Place Next Year


Following the Department of Transports (DfTs) recently introduced regulations, space flights and satellite launches are now permitted to take place in the UK, with the first expected next year. This means that people will be able to visit space for a holiday!

This UK launch will mark the first ever launch from any European country, as many European companies currently launch from a site in French Guiana, South America.

DfT believe that this new regulatory framework has “a potential £4bn of market opportunities over the next decade”,[1] following plans to build spaceport sites across the UK, including in Scotland and Cornwall. The UK is hoped to become Europe’s most attractive destination for commercial spaceflight activities. DfT have also claimed that space tourism trips and hypersonic flights will eventually launch from the UK. Furthermore, the industry intends to launch satellites to improve satnav systems and boost the monitoring of weather patterns and climate change.

The government have agreed to provide £31.5 million to help set up vertical launch services from Scotland, and a further £7.35 million to Spaceport in order to support a horizontal launch in Cornwall. Business plans will also be made for suborbital flights from airports in Machrihanish, Snowdonia and Cornwall. On top of this, another £99 million is to be invested in a new National Satellite Test Facility in Harwell, and £60 million towards the development of a revolutionary hybrid air-breathing rocket engine.[2]

The first UK Pathfinder launch – funded by UKSA – will take place in 2022, seeing Lockheed Martin team up with ABL Systems to launch from SaxaVord Spaceport in Unst.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, had boasted that “we stand on the cusp of the new commercial space age”, adding that “this is the blast-off moment for the UK’s thriving space industry”. Shapps acknowledged the government’s commitment towards this sector, which will ultimately result in the creation of new jobs and economic benefits across UK communities and organisations.

The UK space industry is being regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.



Hijazi v Yaxley-Lennon


The well-known political Activist known as Tommy Robinson loses High Court Libel Trial

On 25 October 2018, a short innocuous altercation between two pupils led to a libel action in the High Court.

Both parties to the ‘fight’ were attending Almondbury Community School, Huddersfield. The Claimant, Jamal Hijazi, was 15, and the attacker, Bailey McLaren, was 16. The incident was recorded by another pupil, with the video showing Bailey approach Jamal and call him out multiple times, while Jamal ignored him. The attacker then grabs Jamal by the throat, forces him to the ground, and pours a bottle of water over his face whilst shouting “I’ll drown you”. Upon releasing him, the Jamal simply stands up and walks away. At no point did he submit any form of violence or retaliation. The recording begins before the attack, implying an element of premeditation, as the student must have known what was about to occur.

This recording was shared amongst pupils at the school, and soon went viral. Upon the Claimant’s parents seeing this video, they reported the incident to the police, with the belief that this was a racially motivated attack on the victim who was a Syrian refugee and Muslim. The Claimant, now 18, and his family migrated to the UK in 2016 after being granted refugee settlement status under the Syrian vulnerable person resettlement programme. When initially joining the school, his English was assessed as very poor. Jamal is said to have been subject to bullying throughout his time at Almondbury, and although he was unable to clearly translate most of the comments made, the Police had been involved following previous attacks against his race and religion.

On the morning of the incident, Jamal had swore at Bailey due to the belief he had deliberately stepped on his coat. As a result, Bailey shouted at Jamal, grabbing him by the throat. When the teacher intercepted the pair, Bailey threatened to kill Jamal, who responded “F off”, and was then met with “I will stab you with a knife”. The attacker claims that the Claimant called him a *white bastard* and laughed at his stutter, triggering the incident. The attacker nonetheless accepted a police caution for common assault.

The Defendant in this case is a well-known public figure, Tommy Robinson, who used his platform to speak out on the matter, making two separate videos stating his views on the incident. The first states how the Claimant – along with a group of Muslim girls – was involved in ‘beating up’ a young girl, which has not been covered by the media, despite the family of the young girl making them aware of the incident. He argues that Jamal has been falsely labelled a victim by the media, simply because he is Syrian. The second video reiterates how there is no valid reason for the media to cover one incident and not the other, and for the school to expel the Claimant’s attacker but not the Muslim attackers of the young girl, noting the alleged levels of violence from Muslims present when he was at school himself. The school refused to report the incident with the young girl to the police.

The Claimant commenced his claim for libel on 15 May 2019. The Defendant has admitted that the requirements of s 1 Defamation Act 2013 are met – causing serious harm to reputation. Originally, the Defendant advanced a defence of truth to the Claimant’s claim under s 2 of the 2013 Act, subsequently applying to add a further defence of public interest under s 4 which was refused. A number of incidents of alleged physical and verbal aggression demonstrated by the Claimant towards pupils were relied upon by the Defendant in support of the defence of truth, including the Claimant allegedly stabbing a pupil with a sharp-pointed object, attacking young girls, and threatening to stab his attacker. In this case, however, the judge held all incidents to be unsatisfactorily proven by the Defendant, thus rejected as evidence. The Defendant’s truth defence was ultimately refused, and the claim was granted to the Claimant.

The Defendant was initially represented by solicitors, but later began representing himself after being declared bankrupt.

At trial, the Claimant and his father gave evidence. The Defendant did not give evidence, but called five witnesses (all of which were Almondbury pupils at the relevant time) in support of his defence. School records were used as further documented evidence – a method of assessing witness credibility.[1] The Defendant wished to rely upon video recordings as hearsay evidence upon the Court’s discretion as to its weighting,[2] though the Court decided that, in this case, little weight was to be attached to such evidence due to only selective snippets of hearsay being submitted.[3]

The Defendant’s allegations against the Claimant were very serious and published widely, causing severe harm to the Claimant’s reputation by portraying him as a violent aggressor. It could be predicted that such allegations would lead to the Claimant becoming the target of abuse, leading to him and his family having to leave their home and forcing the Claimant to abandon his education. The impact of this is likely to last this family a lifetime. For this reason, the judge awarded £100,000 in damages, with the issue of whether to award an injunction to be later reviewed upon further evidence.


[1] Lachaux v Lachaux [2017] 4 WLR 57.

[2] Civil Evidence Act 1995, s 4.

[3] Hourani v Thomson [2017] EWHC 432 (QB) [25] (Warby J).

Boeing Delays Starliner’s Launch Indefinitely


Boeing’s astronaut taxi – a CST-100 Starliner capsule – was scheduled to launch Friday, July 30 at 14:53 EDT on a demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2). This was due to be Starliner’s second attempt at an uncrewed meetup with the space station, following a malfunction with the spacecraft’s timer on the mission’s first try in December 2019, causing the mission clock to be off by about 11 hours.[1]

Starliner’s debut attempt resulted in the spacecraft getting stranded in the wrong orbit, circling Earth solo for two days before having to return home. Not only was there a timing glitch, but the post-flight analyses by Boeing and NASA revealed 80 corrective actions for the company to take. Boeing is said to have made all of those changed, as well as additional changes that were not deemed mandatory.

The mission was later scheduled to launch Tuesday, August 3 at 13:20 EDT, on a United Launce Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.[2]

Unfortunately, however, Starliner’s launch has now been delayed indefinitely, after struggling to find the cause of an ‘unexpected valve position’ in the propulsion system. Had the OFT-2 gone ahead as planned, the Starliner would have spent a day in space before docking with the ISS for up to 10 days, then returning to Earth in the New Mexico desert.

Boeing and SpaceX were each awarded one of NASA’s first commercial crew contracts in 2010. In September 2014, NASA selected both of them to be official commercial crew providers. Courtesy of this deal, Boeing was awarded $4.2 billion to finish developing Starliner and send up to six contracted crewed missions to the space station. SpaceX received a similar deal would about $2.6 billion for its own transportation system, which consists of the Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket.[3]

Initially, NASA announced the target of one or both private spacecrafts to be operational by 2017. Neither Boeing nor SpaceX reached these goals following various development issues and malfunctions upon take off. Boeing has, however, fallen behind SpaceX in the competition to provide commercial flights to the ISS for space agencies including NASA. SpaceX has already flown two sets of astronauts to the ISS, with another scheduled for October and a private flight under operation for 2022.

NASA and Boeing plan to work through every function of the spacecraft in order to identify the cause of the unexpected valve position. Despite this, the flight has only been given a 60 per cent chance of success due to the risk of thunderstorms.

No new date has been announced for the Starliner launch. Safety first.