.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Monday, December 26, 2016

The surveillance state - how local councils are spying on their citizens

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act has always been a controversial measure giving local councils powers to snoop on their citizens to enforce various measures, out of all proportion to the nature of the offence. An article in Guardian reveals the extent to which these powers have been used.

The paper says that Councils were given permission to carry out more than 55,000 days of covert surveillance over five years, including spying on people walking dogs, feeding pigeons and fly-tipping:

A mass freedom of information request has found 186 local authorities – two-thirds of the 283 that responded – used the government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to gather evidence via secret listening devices, cameras and private detectives.

Among the detailed examples provided were Midlothian council using the powers to monitor dog barking and Allerdale borough council gathering evidence about who was guilty of feeding pigeons.

Wolverhampton used covert surveillance to check on the sale of dangerous toys and car clocking; Slough to aid an investigation into an illegal puppy farm; and Westminster to crack down on the selling of fireworks to children.

Meanwhile, Lancaster city council used the act, in 2012, for “targeted dog fouling enforcement” in two hotspots over 11 days.

A spokeswoman pointed out that the law had since changed and Ripa could only now be used if criminal activity was suspected. The permissions for tens of thousands of days were revealed in a huge freedom of information exercise, carried out by the Liberal Democrats. It found that councils then launched 2,800 separate surveillance operations lasting up to 90 days each.

That change in the law is very welcome but as Brian Paddick says, it is absurd that measures primarily intended for combating terrorism are being used to combat issues as trivial as a dog barking or the sale of theatre tickets. Spying on the public should be a last resort not an everyday tool.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?