The Road to Serfdom
Thousands of middle managers in local councils are being authorised to spy on people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.
Even junior council officials are being allowed to initiate surveillance operations in what privacy campaigners likened to Eastern bloc police tactics.
Councils are increasingly allowing anyone of a “service manager” grade rather than high-ranking officials with a legal background to authorise surveillance operations. Relatively junior council officials are giving permission for operations to spy on people, their homes, obtain their telephone records and discover who they are e-mailing.
“A lot of councils are making the proactive decision to use these powers more,” a spokesman for Lacors, the central body that
oversees local authorities, said.
“They think it’s a fantastic tool. Inevitably, more middle-management staff will be called on to authorise surveillance.”
Tens of thousands of service managers work in hundreds of councils throughout Britain and many have less than three years’ experience.
Gus Hosein, of the campaign group Privacy International, said: “The tactics of local authorities are more like the behaviour of the Stasi.”
Last year, councils and government departments made 12,494 applications for “directed surveillance”, according to figures released by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioner. This was almost double the number for the previous year. Applications from police and other law enforcement agencies fell during the same period, to about 19,000. Councils have admitted using the Act to spy on people committing minor offences such as fly-tipping, failing to pick up dog mess, and littering.
Quincy Whitaker, a human rights barrister...said:“Spying by councils is just assumed to be the norm. It seems we’ve given up these freedoms to stop our streets being covered in dog s***.
“It’s all part of the increasing surveillance state.”
It's all going to plan - The Illustrated Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek