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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  • icon
    Machin Shin (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 12:06pm

    “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 GOVERNMENT criminal element who continue to treat the rest of us with open contempt.”

    There, I fixed that statement for ya.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy2020 (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 1:42pm

      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."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bill, 29 Dec 2016 @ 3:27pm

        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

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 12:31pm

    “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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2016 @ 2:14pm

    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....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 2:39pm

    RFC 1149

    Is Allerdale borough council so concerned that terrorist would follow RFC 1149?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 29 Dec 2016 @ 2:59pm

    Its Just Misdemeanor Terrorism

    So their not being booked for Terror One. Doesnt mean there not Terrorists. Maybe not big-time Terrorists, just small-time tin-pot Terrorists. But Terrorism is Terrorism, and we must take a Zero Tolorance approach, otherwise they sneak in, destroy our freedoms and turn us into a dictatership.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 29 Dec 2016 @ 3:11pm

    Does Tom Lehrer deserve a KCB?

    "So if Sunday you're free,
    Why don't you come with me,
    And we'll poison the pigeons in the park..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Dec 2016 @ 6:54pm

    If you're in government and consider yourself a victim, you're in the wrong job. It's like being a childcare worker and hating kids. Grow a spine or find another job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 3:55am

    But pigeons are dangerous. They carry PAWs that can and will be used with staggering precision against the citizenry in atrocious terrorist acts. Think of the children!

    PAW: Precision Anal Weaponry

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 30 Dec 2016 @ 8:41am

    "I’m frankly far more concerned about the rights and civil liberties of the victims and wider council tax-paying public"

    I think I'm following.. Lets put all the victims in jail.. so it will be easier to protect them from the bad people looking to take away their rights and civil liberties.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2016 @ 5:48pm

    Spying, great British hobby, second only to gardening.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jan 2017 @ 12:57am

    Who knew Hot Fuzz was actually a docudrama?

    Every British council is simply vying for "Village of the Year," is all. Yarp.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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