Miri AF

Massive missives and more

Letter to Wetherspoon Pub Regarding Intimidation of Customers and Data Protection Law, 20/07/2020


Dear Sir / Madam,


I visited your pub on Saturday 18th July 2020, hoping to enjoy a relaxed meal and drink with my companions. For many years, I have been a big fan and advocate of the Wetherspoon's chain, championing their unique venues, economical menus, and wide range of interesting beers and ales. I have always felt comfortable and welcome visiting Wetherspoon's pubs, which is especially important to me as a young woman when I visit pubs alone. There are few establishments I feel at ease visiting by myself for a coffee or a meal, but I have never hesitated to enter a Wetherspoon's alone, knowing the atmosphere will always be welcoming and non-intimidating.

So, imagine my great distress and shock when I arrived at the [name redacted] pub at approximately 5pm to be met at the door by a large and imposing individual wearing a facial visor of the sort usually associated with riot gear worn by the police. This is a deeply intimidating reception and immediately quashed the sense of welcoming relaxation I had always associated with Wetherspoon's. This individual informed me and my companions that we must enter our details in the NHS "track and trace" scheme before being escorted to a table. 

I have carefully studied the guidance surrounding NHS "track and trace", and am fully aware that participation in this scheme is voluntary. This fact is reiterated on the Wetherspoon's website. However, the physically imposing individual in riot gear did not make this clear, and instead gave the distinct impression we would be declined entry to the premises were we not to participate in "track and trace". Therefore, we gave the impression of filling in a form, but wrote that we did not consent to this scheme, which we considered to be a gross invasion of our privacy and breach of data protection law, a fact which has been officially confirmed today: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53466471 - but we should not have felt compelled to write anything at all

We were then further distressed to find upon our tables large A4 advertisements for the NHS "track and trace" scheme, which were affixed to the table and impossible to remove. This added to the overall oppressive, Orwellian atmosphere; that instead of entering a pub for a relaxed evening of socialising, we had instead entered some sort of militaristic government facility, patroled by staff in riot gear and surgical masks, demanding we give a detailed breakdown of our movements to the state. It was a deeply sinister and unnerving experience, and - having planned to spend the entire evening there - we had one drink and left. 

As veterans and pioneers of modern pub culture, I am sure I don't have to tell you that people go to the pub to relax, and not to be tracked by the government. I do not think it a deeply radical statement to declare that I don't trust the government, and consider it absolutely no business of theirs whatsoever where I go or what I do. Allegedly, they claim to want to monitor my movements to "protect my health". But it is not their job to protect my health; it is their job to protect my rights (very much including my privacy rights), and in reality, that is the only legitimate job they have.

It is my view - and I have had extensive correspondence with [my local MP] espousing this view - that the "lockdown" measures imposed by the government are wholly illegitimate in every way (especially considering this is all in the name of a virus which has never actually been proven to exist, please see here: https://www.kevinpcorbett.com/coronahysteria/viral-challenge-to-boris-johnson.html), and I most certainly include in these measures the NHS track and trace scheme, which has now been revealed as illegal, as it was always obvious it was. As someone who has gone through the very stringent GDPR training myself, I know very well that pubs are not GDPR compliant, and the method of attempting to collect data is an extraordinary breach of the law. Flimsy forms slipped into cardboard boxes, which anyone could read over your shoulder or run off with. There is no formal, contractual agreement between individuals and institutions regarding what this information is being used for or who is seeing it. It is a complete shambles, and as I wrote on the form at the time, a clear breach of the law. 

I would like to seek your assurance that you will ensure your pubs no longer wilfully flout the law on data protection, nor will you select physically imposing members of your team to attempt to intimidate people into complying with voluntary schemes. I also request you remove the affixed notices from your tables, and return the atmospheres in your venues to relaxed, welcoming, and generally pub-like. I say this not just for myself and everyone else who enjoys pub culture, but for you and your future livelihood - because I can assure you that if you continue to run your pubs like government monitoring facilities, your custom will evaporate and you will be complicit in the murder of your own industry.

Yours sincerely,

Miri Finch