Does the BBC really have a licence to snoop?

This morning’s Observer column:

My eye was caught by an interesting “scoop” in last Saturday’s Daily Telegraph: “BBC to deploy detection vans to snoop on internet users,” screamed the headline. “The BBC is to spy on internet users in their homes,” the report began, “by deploying a new generation of Wi-Fi detection vans to identify those illicitly watching its programmes online. The Telegraph can disclose that from next month, the BBC vans will fan out across the country capturing information from private Wi-Fi networks in homes to ‘sniff out’ those who have not paid the licence fee.”

Scary, eh? Before you reach for your tinfoil hat, though, some background might be helpful…

Read on