Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Big Brother is generally well behaved

Many thanks to City Council officers for their prompt response to my query yesterday about the City Council's use of surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

In summary, the City Council has used its surveillance powers 15 times in the last 2 years, all using CCTV. 3 times City Centre CCTV was used to count the number of street beggars, in the remainder covert CCTV was used to monitor anti-social behaviour, criminal damage, fly-tipping and racial abuse.

The use of these powers is carefully controlled by a detailed policy, and must be approved by specific senior officers.

The powers were used on a limited (small) number of occasions, only involved CCTV, and targeted specific problems rather than more speculative 'fishing expeditions'. This all seems reasonable - indeed in the past it has been frustrating that the Council hasn't been able to use covert CCTV to catch those responsible when, for example, a particular wall has been repeatedly targeted by graffiti vandals.

To be fair to the Liberal Democrats, there appears to be a genuine commitment to ensure the many surveillance powers the Council has are not abused, and overall I think this response is encouraging.

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