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Friday 11 April 2008

We Have a Surveillance Problem [Beej]

Five years ago, if you'd have asked me to chime into the anti-RIPA lobby, I'd have laughed it off. The UK needed new legislation, and was and is a country of high priority to islamist terrorists.

A news article at the Daily Telegraph reports that Poole Borough Council in Dorset is using RIPA to enable it to carry out full-time covert surveillance of a family. Why? They might be lying about where live, so that Little Jonny can go to a specific school.

This is the log of the covert surveillance - you'd hope even Poole police have better things to do, so this must be from a private investgations outfit that the council pays for.

Well I'm not initially against a local council having some ability to investigate. Unusual problems like fraud or vandalism relating to local housing or roads or parks, these could at some point require an investigation. But this isn't that. This is about where kids might go to school. And you know what? You could probably make a management decision on that by carrying out, um, some interviews. Or writing a legal letter. Or knocking on the neighbours' doors to check the family live where they say they do.

Poole Borough Council were unable to reach a decision about a non-threatening non-criminal non-terrorist problem, and have turned to covert surveillance to make that decision easier. That's bad decision-making, laziness, a misunderstanding of what covert surveillance is best used for, and of course being a local council, it's an utter WASTE OF MONEY.


  1. Yay, the first steps are being taken in curtailing the way Local Councils are abusing powers that were intended for use against terrorists and organised crime:"Whilst it is a matter for each council to determine for its area, our advice is that, save in the most unusual and extreme of circumstances, it is inappropriate to use these powers for trivial matters." [Sir Simon Milton] also noted that RIPA calls for spying powers to be used only when "necessary and proportionate to prevent or detect a criminal offence" (more)Unfortunately it's only advice. Meanwhile, the present Labour Government is staying quiet and not fessing up to this situation that they've created.

  2. from The Times:Official 'surveillance' requests for details of telephone and internet records have surged to 1,400 a day, according to figures published yesterday.Although local authorities made up only a small proportion of the overall number of requests in 2007, they were criticised for misunderstanding the concept of proportionality in when 'spying' is justified to tackle a problem. (more)I want to be able to use the misunderstanding and abuse of these CT powers as a strong reason why national id cards must not be sold as a security measure that will help prevent terrorism. Because that's just what the Labour Government said about RIPA and surveillance and sharing of information.


  3. Another example of police misuse of "anti-terror" laws in the Independent today: here. Kids with cerebral palsy and autism, in wheelchairs, going on day trips to France with their parents are now terror suspects apparently.