UK Council hires children to spy on their neighbors

John Ozimek
The Register
Wednesday, Sept 10, 2008

It's one step forward, one step back for local government snooping, as new figures reveal the extent of Council spying on residents, and Bury comes a cropper to the tune of (allegedly) £100,000 for its secret filming activities. However, those who believe they have a divine right to intrude into everyone else’s lives seem remarkably coy when asked questions about their own activities.

First the bad news. An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph suggests that three-quarters of local authorities have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 over the past year. The Telegraph put in a Freedom of Information request to Councils, seeking to identify which Councils had used their RIPA powers. Out of the 115 who responded, 89 councils had done so in the last 12 months.

RIPA was introduced originally to tackle serious crime and terrorism, granting Councils the right to place residents and businesses under surveillance, trace telephone and email accounts and even carry out undercover surveillance. But it has serious flaws, mostly the work of David Blunkett in 2003, which have led to Councils now using their powers to tackle such life-threatening issues as littering, benefit fraud and parents abusing their school catchment areas.

Scariest of all, a number of Councils – including Dudley and County Durham – are using the Act as a means to recruit child informers. Undercover children, armed with hidden surveillance equipment, were sent into shops to carry out illegal purchases of cigarettes and alcohol.

This seems to be separate and in addition to a new drive by Councils to encourage children to snoop on their neighbours for money: children as young as eight are being offered incentives of up to £500 to denounce miscreants who fail to obey Council diktats on waste collection.

Full article here

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