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UK Local Councils Spy On Emails and Calls 61

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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  • by montyzooooma ( 853414 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @05:46AM (#23679825)
    Forbid councils, and other government bodies in general, from accessing phone records and email? Forbid law agencies from taking finger prints? Make it illegal for the police to arrest you on the off chance they make a mistake? More people were getting convicted of committing crimes they had nothing to do with 20 years ago when we didn't have all this technology. Now we have it and can improve on false convictions and you don't want to use it?
  • Re:Function Creep (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lysse ( 516445 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @07:26AM (#23680191)
    Aye, but where? The UK is far from the worst country for piling petty tyrannies onto its citizens... although quite how the British political system ever came to be described as "democracy" is a complete mystery to me, unless democracy can really be stretched to mean "the Crown's subjects receive the occasional opportunity to give the job of pretending to run the country to a different set of chancers, spongers, curtain-twitchers, busybodies and nest-featherers, and they should be grateful that their ruler allows them that! grateful, I tell you!".

    Hey, at least it's a common law system - imagine the combination of elected despotism and civil law...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2008 @07:29AM (#23680197)
    They can send you to prison for not paying your council tax, and do so regularly. A guy I used to work with loved going to court with his list of "criminals" that were so poor they couldn't afford the monthly tax, they'd end up doing time. Benefits don't fill in the gaps, having some money coming in and a roof over your head that isn't provided by the council, pushes you through the gaps.

    Councils handle housing benefits which is integrated with the community tax (or whatever it's called these days). That's why they'd love to snoop.

    As you say, councillors are awful. You should see what they get (I printed their payslips), and the back-handers more than managers' salaries, and the foreign trips etc. It's a bloody disgrace. I left local govt, I couldn't put up with the snails and lifers. I left the UK eventually too!

    All I see these days are UK councils cutting services and fining people for not being about to close their wheelie-bins or leaving them at the wrong angle on collection day. I gather lots of areas are down to one collection every two weeks. I have two a week, yet only put the bin out once every two.
  • Re:But... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @08:05AM (#23680329) Journal

    How do I go about getting this information out of the councils to find out if they've been spying on me and if so what information they have gathered? Can I apply for this under Freedom of Information? And can anyone else?
  • Re:Function Creep (Score:5, Interesting)

    by akadruid ( 606405 ) <slashdot@thedrui ... k minus language> on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:05AM (#23680761) Homepage
    It's only a month since Poole council hit the headlines for using RIPA to spy on families to check school applications[1] - council employees were literally following people around and sitting outside their houses. Not only is this explicitly legal, but they were prepared to go on record saying they considered it to be a normal desirable practice. There will be a lot more of this.

    The Tories want to get rid of the 'paperwork' of RIPA[2] too, which basically means eliminating those awkward checks and balances so they can get on with real spying in peace (that's how I read it anyway).

    On the bright side, the police hate RIPA[2] as it is, so at least its due for some more headlines first

    1. [] & []

    2. []

    3. []
  • Re:big brother (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hanyin ( 1301045 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @09:45AM (#23681235)

    The conspiracy theorist in me sometimes believes that the sole purpose of that show was to inundate people with the term 'Big Brother' just so that when the UK really did become a big brother state there would be no shock value in calling it so.
    I always thought that they did the same with the phrase 'antisocial behavior'. I'm not from the UK but I get the impression that they managed to make it not only refer to your neighborhood hoodlum who likes to break windows and spray-paint walls, but protesters too. That way when you hear about antisocial behavior on the news you automatically think it was justified that someone was arrested without actually knowing what they were doing.

    I may be wrong so feel free to correct me if I'm off base with my opinion.
  • Re:But... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by internewt ( 640704 ) on Friday June 06, 2008 @10:16AM (#23681641) Journal

    Even though your post hase been modded up to +5 (I have modifiers, so that might not be right) there are no replies.... and this isn't a proper one either.

    I think the lack of replies shows how a system that supposedly exists to free government infomation isn't very approachable at all.... and the cynic in me says the authorities would have wanted it that way.

    I added this site to my bookmarks the otherday... looks interesting []
    But the UK gov do seem to try and make URLs predictable: []

    But no, I can't answer your question. That Daily Heil article mentioned numbers of councils who do use the act, and those who don't.... Wish they'd publish them too.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong