UPDATE: More UK councils using the anti-terrorism law for clearly non-terrorism purposes.
Disclosure: I worked with PogoWasRight.org on an anti-REAL ID campaign.
PogoWasRight.org highlights a UK Daily Mail report, “Big Brother council caught spying on residents 17 times.” The Poole Borough Council carried out the surveillance on “fishermen, vandals and a family suspected of living in the wrong school catchment area.” The surveillance was conducted “to detect neighbourhood nuisance and anti-social behaviour, substantiate benefit claims and monitor suspected drug dealers,” among other things. What exactly does the Council consider to be “anti-social behaviour”? The Council claims it has the power to undertake this surveillance through the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, an anti-terrorism law.
Borough residents are outraged that they would be covertly surveilled under an anti-terrorism law for non-terrorism questions of government benefits claims and school districts. And the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) said it has “concerns about the surveillance that has taken place in Poole.” An ICO representative said the Office would contact the Council about whether their actions violated the Data Protection Act, and said the ICO would “also be liaising with the Surveillance Commissioner, the regulator for the exercise of RIPA powers, on this issue.”