Feeds

UK comms intercepts up by half - and it isn't the council

Wristslap for town halls' street watchers, however

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

The latest reports from government surveillance watchdogs reveals that interception of communications by UK officials surged by almost 50 per cent in 2007. British public bodies including police and intelligence agencies made 519,260 requests for information to telcos and ISPs during the year.

However, just 1,707 of these were from councils - a fraction of a single percentage point. The Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, said in his report that "local authorities could make much more use of communications data as a powerful tool to investigate crime". Whoever's behind the surge in intercept requests, it plainly isn't local bureaucracy.

Under available powers, councils can ask to see itemised phone bills and internet usage records, but aren't allowed to eavesdrop on conversations. Such records can nonetheless be a powerful tool for local government officials acting against rogue traders, fly tippers, those seeking to avoid council tax, parents trying to fraudulently gain places at popular schools and other criminals.

Sir Paul plainly believes that communications data should be more widely used in government, and that in general intercept powers are not being abused or causing problems. His counterpart Sir Christopher Rose, who deals with full-blown surveillance (bugging, watching, following people, making covert entries to premises etc.) is much less sanguine.

In his report, Sir Christopher says that council officers using such methods (they are limited to the less activist options, unlike the police and especially unlike the security service) have gone too far on occasion. He said that if town halls wanted to have people watched or followed, they should spend money and hire properly trained operatives able to work covertly without causing needless distress and alarm.

Some councils using these surveillance methods against council tax dodgers and so forth had shown "serious misunderstanding of the concept of proportionality", and that oversight had been "poor" in some cases.

The Beeb quotes Home Sec Jacqui Smith as saying that: "The commissioners' reports offer valuable oversight and provide reassurance that these powers are being used appropriately.

"These powers can make a real difference ... enabling us to gain that vital intelligence that will prevent a terrorist attack, working to tackle antisocial behaviour or ensuring that rogue traders do not defraud the public." ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
UK.gov chucks £28m at F1 tech for buses and diggers plan
Well, not really F1 but who's heard of LMP and VLN*?
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.