2012 has seen governments such as those in the USA, Canada and the UK attempt to extend their "snooping laws". Under the excuse that reforms are needed to prevent terrorism and child pornography Internet freedoms have been threatened; but it seems more like authorities wanting to manipulate and control the people. We all know that the reality is that our freedoms are being curbed but some people may not realise just how far.
UK changes are still expected. The Coalition in the UK hopes that it will be a case of "out of sight is out of mind". If people do not stay alert to potential threats the changes will be implemented before we know it. Then again, maybe without our knowledge. Once implemented it will be harder to get changes reversed.
However it may surprise you to know that some Councils in the UK already overstep the mark as far as breaching your privacy. UK Councils are local bodies made up of officials and politicians. Their workers operate public services such as street maintenance and lighting.
What has been called by many a "snooper's charter" was aimed at helping investigations into serious crimes. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, RIPA, is however being abused left right and centre, or so it seems. The act came into force in 2000. It limits the use of surveillance and the like. In other words it protects our privacy and freedoms. Now, as it turns out, it does not.
RIPA is supposed to be used only in certain circumstances but is being used on a daily basis. Many times each day in the UK. Only specific government officials or bodies in the UK are able to utilise RIPA. That is not as reassuring as it should be.
Since its creation the Act has undergone various amendments. The reasons given have been the increase in Internet activity and terrorism. In truth it is that the government wants to control its citizens more and more.
According to Wikipedia: "RIPA regulates the manner in which certain public bodies may conduct surveillance and access a person's electronic communications. The Act:
The news that RIPA has been invoked over, and over again is worrying. The use of RIPA rose from 21,582 instances in 2009 to 31,210 in the last year figures were available. So what has caused this heavy use of RIPA? The cases include spying to see if the smoking ban is being adhered to, to investigate benefit fraud, to collect evidence of antisocial behaviour, checking up on dog fouling and observing fly tipping.
The operations will be costly as they involve covert surveillance using people and equipment. Appropriate spending of public funds in austere times?
Hardly what the act was aimed at, is it?
Among those allowed to request the use of a surveillance operation are the BBC, which is thought to use it for TV licensing infringement, the Prison Service, the Office of Fair Trading, the Royal Mail, UK Trade and Investment and the schools watchdog Ofsted. As The Independent noted taxpayer funded agencies are at times hounding the taxpayer. A row has developed as too many of these refused to detail their surveillance operations.
Opinion - It is time for the government to get a grip and tighten the rules. It is time for people to demand change. If the government has its way and extends the "snoopers charter" further heaven help us all.
READ - Big Brother Watch has full details here