Feeds

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

Wristslap for town halls' street watchers, however

Mobile application security vulnerability report

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." ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.