Feeds

Local council uses snooping laws to spy on three-year-old

Spying laws used to check school applications

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Poole Borough Council has admitted using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), designed to regulate snooping by police and other bodies, to check the usual address of a three-year-old child applying for a primary school place.

The council is unrepentant and said it will continue to use powers available to it under the Act.

Poole Council confirmed to the Register that it used physical surveillance six times in the financial year 2007/2008. Three of these related to school applications and three to investigations by Environmental and Consumer Protection. The council also acquired communications data three times in the period.

Tim Martin, head of legal and democratic services, Borough of Poole, said: "On a small number of occasions, RIPA procedures have been used to investigate potentially fraudulent applications for school places. In such circumstances, we have considered it appropriate to treat the matter as a potential criminal matter.

"The council is keen to ensure that the information given by parents who apply for school places is true. This protects the majority of honest parents against the small number of questionable applications. An investigation may actually satisfy the council that the application is valid, as happened in this case."

From 13 February until 3 March the family's house was put under surveillance.

Surveillance logs show the family were watched at home and their car was followed.

James Welch, legal director for privacy watchdog Liberty, said: "It's one thing to use covert surveillance in operations investigating terrorism and other serious crimes, but it has come to a pretty pass when this kind of intrusive activity is used to police school catchment areas.

"This is a ridiculously disproportionate use of RIPA and will undermine public trust in necessary and lawful surveillance."

In 2003, the Home Office announced measures to restrict use of RIPA by local authorities. This supposedly stopped parish councils, the lowest level of local government, from accessing communication data.

The bill was passed in 2000 and mainly gained attention because it regulated how security services and police could access emails and other communication and browsing information.

In February 2008, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, chief inspector of constabulary, called for an urgent review of RIPA codes of practice and complained of "over-interpretation of the relevant rules". ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.