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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Comments on “UK Councils Used Massive Surveillance Powers To Spy On… Excessively Barking Dogs & Illegal Pigeon Feeding”

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20 Comments
Jeremy2020 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think that fixes the statement as I don’t think that’s a concern to the speaker. It’s more like:

“I’m frankly far more concerned about the rights and civil liberties of myself and cohorts than the poor and middle class element who continue to treat us as equals and not as their overlords.”

bill says:

Re: Re: Re:

I downloaded a British reality TV show showing how great the council employees are in protecting everyone. They showed CCTV cams being used to ticket people who spit on the street and those chronic litters who had a piece of paper fall out of their pocket while they were digging for parking meter change. Each ticket was 60 pounds.
Not surprising is they did not show the favorite night shift game of using the CCTV cams to look into bedroom windows.8D

That One Guy (profile) says:

“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,

… says the person defending indiscriminate spying. Also if those are his concerns it seems that the cameras should be in the private offices of politicians(you know, like him), where rights and civil liberty violations seem to occur on a regular basis.

"…than the small minority criminal element who continue to treat the rest of us with open contempt.”

That this was said with a straight face, by a politician defending indiscriminate surveillance of the public is just too priceless for words.

Anonymous Coward says:

They’re attacking this problem all wrong. What is needed is an educational approach. Children need to be taught that wild animals aren’t pets, they’re disease-mongering vermin. But there are actually people who SELL these small animals, AND the food they eat, to OUR CHILDREN!

You can’t stomp out pigeon-feeding seed-users completely. It’s an addiction. But you can criminalize the PUSHERS; you can criminalize ownership of devices that are useful only to feed or house those vermin; you can filter the internet to remove any reference to small animals; you may even, in some fortunate instances, be able to exterminate the animals altogether. All these approaches are surely more productive than going after the small-time noncommercial seed-dropper.

But try telling that you your local representative….

Anonymous Coward says:

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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