City council spies on family using RIPA

One of the things that astonished me in 1999 when I was campaigning against the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill was the way it would grant sweeping powers of surveillance not just to genuine security authorities, but effectively to every jobsworth in the country. And lo! so it has proved. Here’s a fascinating Telegraph report on the latest abuse.

A council has used powers intended for anti-terrorism surveillance to spy on a family who were wrongly accused of lying on a school application form.

For two weeks the middle-class family was followed by council officials who wanted to establish whether they had given a false address within the catchment area of an oversubscribed school to secure a place for their three-year-old.

The “spies” made copious notes on the movements of the mother and her three children, who they referred to as “targets” as they were trailed on school runs. The snoopers even watched the family home at night to establish where they were sleeping.

In fact, the 39-year-old mother – who described the snooping as “a grotesque invasion of privacy” – had held lengthy discussions with the council, which assured her that her school application was totally in order.

Poole borough council disclosed that it had legitimately used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on the family.

Ludicrously, the Council is correct. See here for a pdf of some of the snoopers’ logs.