Civil rights campaigners Big Brother Watch have compiled a report on how often public bodies use the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which allows them to survey people.
As a bit of context the act was originally brought into to prevent serious crimes such as terrorism, however the report shows that Wrexham Council have used it to check on fly tipping and noise pollution.
If it used to obtain evidence of offences which could result in the LA and ultimately public pocket being liable for payouts, or cases of people causing other nuisance then it should be used as much as they want. if they’ve got nothing to hide there is no problem.
The problem is that some councils (and I’m not necessarily saying Wrexham) take it to high levels of intrusion for relatively minor matters. The example which concerned me was in Dorset council officials in put three kids and their parents under surveillance, under the RIPA, at home and in their daily movements to check whether they lived in a particular school catchment area. It’s an extreme example granted, but I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with local authorities having that level of power to pry into people’s lives.
This is horrifying, and shows a great lack of understanding by those who authorised this surveillance. Its not just what is known, its also the discreet questions and work that may be done and not recorded. What is spent on this activity, do we now monitor the magistrates grants of surveillance, do those grants conform to the Act and the remit of terrorism and serious offences, are the people carrying these out properly experienced, trained and monitored. Is this proportionate, and how does it compare with policy activity and policy, and comparable government agencies.
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