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Wednesday, 22nd August 2012

UK: A legacy of suspicion: How RIPA has been used by local authorities and public bodies

Source: Big brother Watch (UK)

From Executive Summary:

The Protection of Freedoms Act introduced a long overdue needed safeguard against unwarranted local authority surveillance, with councils now required to seek a magistrate’s approval to use powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

However, local authorities are only the tip of the iceberg. Public authorities, many of which serve no law enforcement function, are able to use the same powers to put members of the public under surveillance. While many would claim they are only doing so in the case of specific investigations, they are denying access to the information that supports this assertion. Others simply refuse to confirm or disclose any details of how they are using these powers.

The legislative framework of surveillance does not offer proper safeguards against abuse or transparency. It is absurd that the regulation of the test purchase of a puppy falls under the same legislation that governs when security services can intercept communications. It is dangerous that organisations do not even have to confirm if, how or why they have used these powers when they potentially involve very intrusive surveillance...

This report serves two main purposes. Firstly, it highlights the secrecy surrounding how public authorities use RIPA and their determination to avoid scrutiny. It is simply unacceptable for organisations to use RIPA powers to spy on the public while avoiding accountability for how and why they do.

Secondly, it offers a benchmark of local authority use so the new system of magistrate approvals can be compared with the number of investigations undertaken before such approval was needed.

+ Direct link to document (PDF; 3.1 MB)



Having begun his career in academic libraries, Adrian Janes has subsequently worked extensively in public libraries, chiefly in enquiry work as an Information Services librarian. In this role he has had particular responsibility for information from both the UK Government and the European Union. He wrote a detailed report on sources for the latter which was published by FreePint in 2007, and has contributed articles to FreePint and ResourceShelf. He is involved in training in information literacy and the use of online reference resources.

A Contributing Editor to DocuTicker, he also write reviews for Pennyblackmusic.

More articles by Adrian Janes »

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