UK Councils Used Massive Surveillance Powers To Spy On... Excessively Barking Dogs & Illegal Pigeon Feeding

from the once-the-power's-there... dept

Over in the UK, we've highlighted many of the problems of massively expanding surveillance through the (most likely illegal) "DRIPA" (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill) and the new Snooper's Charter. And yet, the government there keeps insisting that such powers would never be abused. But, that's ridiculous. As we've seen in the past, it's difficult to find examples of surveillance powers not being expanded and abused over time. And, now the UK is realizing exactly how that works. The Guardian, via Freedom of Information requests, has discovered that local British councils were given the ability to use surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on all sorts of people for what appear to be minor infractions:
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.
Remember, of course, that every time these kinds of surveillance powers are discussed in government, everyone is told that they're necessary to stop the horrible threat of imminent death from terrorism. No one talks about how they'll stop the scourge of illegal pigeon feeding.

While the article rightly quotes politicians horrified by this abuse of surveillance power -- and using it to question why the UK is giving itself more powers under the Snooper's Charter, which will be similarly abused -- there are also some local politicans who defend spying on the public in this manner:
“I’m frankly far more concerned about the rights and civil liberties of the victims and wider council tax-paying public, who are currently having to pick up the tab, than the small minority criminal element who continue to treat the rest of us with open contempt.”
And this is how civil liberties die. By claiming that it's more important to give them up to capture people involved in petty nuisance activities, and claiming that the government needs to spy on everyone to stop such activities.
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Filed Under: barking dogs, investigatory powers, pigeon feeding, ripa, snooper's charter, surveillance, uk


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2016 @ 12:43am

    Blatant disregard for the UK citizens

    "A mass freedom of information request has found 186 local authorities – two-thirds of the 283 that responded"

    Assuming that the Guardian submitted requests to all 418 UK local authorities, this would seem to mean that 135 councils couldn't be bothered to respond. Lazy, inept, and arrogant. Shameful.

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