According to The Guardian, the UK local authorities used the government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which could be applied only in criminal cases, to spy on ordinary citizens via listening devices, cameras and private detectives. The councils carried out more than 55,000 days of secret surveillance, the newspaper revealed on December 25.
"I believe the powers were needed but regarding the use they have been put to by local authorities… [it is] an abuse and legislation should include severe sanctions against such abuse including considerable compensation," Sammy Wilson said.
Among the British councils that have reportedly used covert surveillance inappropriately and abused their investigative powers are the Midlothian council that was monitoring dog barking, the Allerdale borough council that was gathering evidence about who was feeding pigeons, the Wolverhampton council that was checking on the sale of dangerous toys and car clocking, the Slough borough council that was investigating the case of an illegal puppy farm and the Westminster Council that was cracking down on the selling of fireworks to children.
The Investigatory Powers Bill forces Internet companies to retain user details for 12 months and raised serious concerns about privacy from civil liberty groups. Apart from data retention, the new surveillance law enables the UK security services and police to hack into phones and computers as well as gives police a new power to view call and web records of journalists.