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Privacy Communications

UK Local Councils Spy On Emails and Calls 61

Posted by timothy
from the apb-for-winston-smith dept.
MrSteveSD writes "The Daily Mail is reporting that local councils have been using the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on people's phone and email records. Reasons given for the surveillance include checking for evidence of people storing petrol without permission and investigating unburied animal carcasses. The surveillance was uncovered using Freedom of Information laws. The scope of the RIPA act is staggering. It would be simpler to list who isn't allowed to access your phone and email records. Aside from political action, what can be done technologically to combat this threat? Use Skype rather than the normal telephone?"
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UK Local Councils Spy On Emails and Calls

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  • Function Creep (Score:5, Informative)

    by silasthehobbit (626391) on Friday June 06, 2008 @05:27AM (#23679751)
    As with all too many of the UK Government's policies, this was introduced with the express intention of dealing with suspected terrorists.

    Unfortunately, we Brits are about to get repeatedly hit over the head with the Terrorism Act (2000) - used recently in the case of a man who downloaded the 'Manchester Manual' from the US Department of Justice's servers, and was then arrested - and the Civil Contingencies Act - which allows the Government to suspend democratic process in a 'state of emergency'.

    At the present time, the Government are also trying to push through 42 days detention without charge, despite there being no evidence to justify such an increase from the current (and already excessive) 28 days.

    I am, like many people I know, looking to leave the UK for a new life abroad.
  • But... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @05:33AM (#23679779)
    If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear (/sarcasm)

    Also my local council used the law to spy on a family trying to give their kids a decent education http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2008/apr/11/localgovernment.ukcrime [guardian.co.uk]

    Or if you want you can download the forms to apply to spy on someone form here http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/ripa/about-ripa/forms/ [homeoffice.gov.uk]

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday June 06, 2008 @08:05AM (#23680323)

    They can send you to prison for not paying your council tax, and do so regularly.

    No, they can't. A court may send you to prison. A council can merely bring a case against you, just as you yourself may bring a case against someone who has wronged you. But you don't get to spy on HM Revenue and Customs' e-mails about your tax return under the RIP Act, even though it is known that HMRC screw up thousands of tax calculations every year to the detriment of the citizens concerned and waste billions of pounds of taxpayers' money every year by failing to run their own systems properly.

    As the GP said, there is no legitimate reason to grant councils (and numerous other pseudo-government agencies) access to such personal information. On the occasions where there are legitimate grounds for a serious investigation — and they are rare at council level, very rare — it should be possible for the council to go via the court system and/or police to find the information they need with judicial oversight, just like they used to.

    There is an increasing mound of evidence to show that laws providing for gross invasion of privacy are being abused on a massive scale for the most trivial of things by pencil pushers who fancy themselves important. There is almost no evidence that councils are using these sweeping powers to get good results in genuine cases where they couldn't have achieved similar results without the powers. It's just a screwed up law, and the sooner it's repealed the better.

  • Re:big brother (Score:3, Informative)

    by Escogido (884359) on Friday June 06, 2008 @08:05AM (#23680333)
    You know what? They all will die one day, well almost. And they are not replaced much by the younger generation.

    http://www.herecomeseverybody.org/2008/04/looking-for-the-mouse.html [herecomeseverybody.org]

% A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back the when it begins to rain. -- Robert Frost

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