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Local councils are using snooping laws - the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - to follow dog walkers suspected of letting their dogs crap on public land and people suspected of littering.

RIPA is meant to control how investigating bodies like the police and secret services can snoop on citizens' communications and movements. But the Press Association has found that 46 councils used the legislation 1,343 times against residents.

Derby City Council, Bolton, Gateshead and Hartlepool all used RIPA powers to snoop on dog fouling, and Bolton used powers under the Act to investigate littering.

The most prolific user of the Act was Durham County Council which used the legislation 131 times. A spokesman for the Council told The Register: "We used the Act almost exclusively against traders suspected of selling counterfeit goods or suspected of selling age-restricted products to kids. Not against people taking their dogs for a walk."

Lobby group Privacy International said it was time for a proper review of the laws. It also questioned the cost of a local council running such a snooping operation against relatively minor offences.

Last month it emerged that Poole Council used RIPA to spy on a family it suspected of dishonestly applying for a school place.

PA contacted 97 councils and got replies from 46. 16 councils said they did not use the Act, 16 did not respond and 19 said they would only release the information if they received a formal Freedom of Information request.

RIPA regulates how authorities can use physical surveillance and phone records and other communications. ®

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