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    Independent (UK): Councils and police rebuked for hi-tech snooping on public

    The Independent reports on local councils and police officers in the UK being rebuked for their surveillance of the public. They are using powers under the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), a law targeted toward terrorism and organized crime. I’ve written before about this disturbing trend of local councils in the United Kingdom using RIPA powers to track or prosecute minor offenses, such as littering.

    Britain’s surveillance watchdog has reprimanded police forces, councils and government departments for overusing powers intended to clamp down on terrorism to snoop on members of the public.

    In a report to the Prime Minister, Sir Christopher Rose, the chief surveillance commissioner, warned that public authorities were increasingly using digital cameras and sound equipment that can provide permanent monitoring of suspects, from alleged criminals to noisy neighbours.

    The findings come amid lingering concerns over the use of wide-ranging powers, originally designed to fight terrorism, to spy on ordinary members of the public. The Government has vowed to curb abuses of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), after it emerged that councils have used it during investigations into “bin crimes”, breaches of school catchment area rules and thefts from allotments.

    A series of individual surveillance commissioners’ reports on public bodies, obtained by The Independent on Sunday, have detailed a catalogue of failings, including the Department of Work and Pensions being chastised for “unwittingly” using the public as covert informants. […]

    Sir Christopher’s report recorded more than 2,700 authorisations of “property interference” for investigators in the UK last year. He also found that there were almost 400 examples of “intrusive surveillance” – where investigators enter a suspect’s property to carry out monitoring – and 13,780 of “directed surveillance”. Law enforcement agencies recruited more than 4,000 “covert human intelligence sources”.

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