back to article Surveillance law slip-up in sight for staff stalking citizens on socials

Authorities need to have rules in place to ensure that lawful social media snooping doesn’t slip into covert ops, the UK’s chief surveillance commissioner has said. In his 2016-17 annual report (PDF), published today, the commissioner Lord Igor Judge set out the state of surveillance in the country. It showed that, during the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let this be a timely reminder not to set your status on facebook to "Forgot to bring the bins in last night"

  2. djstardust Silver badge

    Saying that .....

    If it heps identify dole scroungers on disability benefit who go snowboarding whilst being unable to walk then I'm all for it.

    If these people are stupid enough to post their antics publicly then they get what's coming to them.

    P.S. The clue in in the name ..... "social" networking.

    I know in the past that councils and DHSS have spied on people physically before, this just makes their work easier.

    There are many out there who try to pull a fast one for their own benefit whilst others lose out. Anything that can be done to clamp down on this is welcome.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saying that .....

      I agree but don't be fooled by the government mantra supported by the press about benefit cheats, it's not that big of a problem that's why they make a big deal when on the very few and far between occasions they catch one. The problem the government has is with the working families that have to claim benefits because they don't get paid enough and that's who they target with cuts.

      On the other hand the councils will not just use this for that, it's not really their job anyway, that falls to the DWP. The councils will use this to enable them to fine people and snoop on their own employees for whatever reason is required.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Saying that .....

        "that's why they make a big deal when on the very few and far between occasions they catch one."

        New Zealand rolled out a system which linked up banks, the inland revenue and the welfare departments to try and catch benefit cheats. It cost $200million to rollout.

        The claim was that it would save $500 million per year.

        The reality was that it found about $75 miillion in fraud and 4 out of 5 cases were committed by welfare department staff.

        It also found that around $500million in benefit entitlements were NOT being claimed.

        NZ and UK society are similar (even the xenophobia is similar) and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find the same thing happening here.

    2. Suburban Inmate

      Re: Saying that .....

      The odd benefit fiddler is nothing compared to the harm of having almost any government employed/contracted numpty permitted to go trawling people's online business on the flimsiest of excuses.

      Remember when the regime had to call privacy invasions "anti terrorism" to foist more snooping on us?

    3. HarryBl

      Re: Saying that .....

      RIPA 2000 Paton vs Poole Council 2010

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Saying that .....

      "dole scroungers on disability benefit who go snowboarding whilst being unable to walk"

      The number of these that exist is statistically so small as to be nonexistent - time and again the costs of the people hired to investigate such claims (or drug use amongst beneficiaries) has been proven to be higher than the money saved in detecting them.

      There are something like 20,000 people investigating what may be as much as £500 million in benefit fraud, yet only 1500 investigating £70 billion in tax fraud/tax evasion. What does that tell you about priorities?

      And for what it's worth the entire disabilities and unemployment budget is about £10billion (less than 5% of the budget), whilst pensions account for more than 2/3 (68%) as a direct cost, with pensioner perks (fuel allowance, council housing, free travel, etc) accounting for another 5-7% (yes, more than the unemployment/disability benefits in pensioner perks/vote bribes)

      Baby boomers are only just starting to retire. The peak will be in another 5-7 years and by 2025 pensions are likely to account for 80% of the country's budget. Remind me how going after a few benefit cheats is going to make this sustainable?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Saying that .....

        Funny you saying that. On our local employers website exists a section that lauds over the discovery and prosecution of benefit cheats. Being that this is a very affluent area, there seems to be a lot of them. In less salubrious areas I cant see how statistically more people aren't trying it.

        Seems to me that there ARE far more benefit cheats that you would seem to believe.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saying that .....

      Agree.

      Be a dick and bend the rules, effectively biting the hand that feeds you and you should expect to get caught out.

      However, as you see, the number of down votes you received (5+ 19-) shows how libtard / millennial infested the Reg forums have become.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Saying that .....

      Daily Mail?

  3. unwarranted triumphalism

    If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. Only criminals need fear these sensible measures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'll give you an example.

      Lets say the council want to cut staff but need to do it without paying redundancy. What they would do is trawl social media to find something they could use to sack a member of staff. What that may be could be something innocuous that can be twisted to give another meaning.

      Still think it's only criminals that need to fear this?

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Only yourself to blame.

      If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. Only criminals need fear these sensible measures.

      I'm fairly certain you are being ironic, but indicate 'joke' with icon; we've had more than enough nutters of late posting nonsense that people now assume you say what you mean, even if you don't mean what you say.

      1. kain preacher Silver badge

        Re: Only yourself to blame.

        you mean sarcastic

    3. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge
      Facepalm

      "If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear"

      Sigh.....

      ...I was beginning to think no one was stupid enough to trot this one out anymore.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        ...I was beginning to think no one was stupid enough to trot this one out anymore.

        It's even been a while since a politician said it. Maybe as much as a week or two, at least.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          So long as it's not thumbnails of legal porn on a computer, you've nothing to hide.

          1. Anonymous C0ward

            "legal porn"

            If I have porn on my work computer, it's not a police matter. But I could still get fired for it.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "legal porn"

              Computer misuse act?

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear

        Does that still apply to spiders ?

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. Only criminals need fear these sensible measures.

      Vote local council for another glorious decade of total law enforcement

      1. Chris King Silver badge
        Pint

        "Vote local council for another glorious decade of total law enforcement"

        No doubt they'll also have a hotline so people can report the stuff the Voter Colonel didn't spot...

        "Be a Local Council Informer. Betray Your Family & Friends. Fabulous Prizes to be Won"

        (Oh, and have a virtual pint for the Red Dwarf reference !)

    5. handleoclast Silver badge
      Holmes

      @unwanted numpty

      If you've got nothing to hide you've got nothing to fear. Only criminals need fear these sensible measures.

      Time to put your money where your mouth is. Drop your own dox. With proof. Let us all know who you are in real life, with a way of proving the entity posting as unwarranted triumpahlism is indeed that real life person.

      After all, you have nothing to hide, right?

    6. strum Silver badge

      unwarranted triumphalism

      Bronze badge for trolling

  4. Sherminator
    Devil

    Checks and balances are required

    I'm all for investigations where necesary, however, half of the ass clowns in most councils are not trained to operate a keyboard properly, nevermind carry out a lawful surveillance job.

    Get the people trained and authorised to do only what is required and no more, there's enough horror stories of councils using RIPA to spy on people over school catchment area validity..... is this what we want our council tax spent on?

    I can't get my bins emptied half the time and I can't remember the last time I actually saw a Police Officer.

    Me thinks Councils are not controlled well enough....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Checks and balances are required

      Sherminator wrote:

      "Get the people trained and authorised to do only what is required and no more, there's enough horror stories of councils using RIPA to spy on people over school catchment area validity..... is this what we want our council tax spent on?

      I can't get my bins emptied half the time and I can't remember the last time I actually saw a Police Officer.

      Me thinks Councils are not controlled well enough...."

      After recent experience I can concur wholeheartedly with that sentiment. I have no SM accounts, however, my wife (read only) children & grandchildren do (despite my best efforts).

      We were waiting the result of a re-assessment for help with (our) disability needs. Assessment done then months of delays until finally they came up with a six year old photo showing me standing, sticks hidden behind my back with part of the ferrel showing beside my foot. They also found another (grainy) photo showing me in uniform from 40 years ago. Sufficient they said to prove I no longer need help. When argued they quoted the upload dates as proof! The photo's were from my grandchildrens' accounts.

      Whilst I understand the opportunity the public domain provides my experience is that they only search for what they need to prove the answer they want and invariably truth has SFA to do with it.

      I have dealt with many agents of local and national government and all I can say is that for the majority of them .... erm erm... nope, nothing printable.

      Anon as this is hands of solicitor

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Checks and balances are required

        You have my sympathy regarding your situation, but tell us more about your read-only wife!

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: Checks and balances are required

          I used to have a WORM wife. Once she'd got an idea in her head you'd never hear the end of it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Checks and balances are required

            The trick is to make sure it's your idea you've implanted in her head!

            1. Captain DaFt

              Re: Checks and balances are required

              The trick is to make sure it's your idea you've implanted in her head!
              '''''''''''

              Didn't work with my wife, she was like an ink blotter.

              Took it, but got it backwards.

  5. Suburban Inmate

    Simply follow sensible advice.

    Never use your real name on the net!

    Of course, none of El Reg's esteemed readership would ever dream of doing anything nefarious, but it pays to be cautious.

    Its a good thing that there is clarity being applied here.

    1. Down not across

      Re: Simply follow sensible advice.

      Never use your real name on the net!

      Of course, none of El Reg's esteemed readership would ever dream of doing anything nefarious, but it pays to be cautious.

      I suspect most of the commentards know and do that.

      The problem is that there are family and/or friends etc and no appreciable control on what they do. Hence even if you completely abstain from social media, chances are others are putting you out there whether you like it or not.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As they say in the banana republics...

    It's only unethical if you get caught.

    Just like the police then.

    Institutionalised unethicalism™

  7. SVV Silver badge

    A number of options

    1) Donb't use social media, as it's dumb, and even using a pseudonym won't really protect you in the case of an investigation as other people in your network won't be using one and they'll be able to track you down pretty easily with this information and the dumb selfies you post. Furthermore, if they transfer most of their efforts into investigating via social media, you'll be off their radar anyway.

    2) When going on a foreign holiday whilst claiming, take photos in the couple of weeks beforehand of local medical centres, office blocks, etc in varying weather conditions. Then during your holiday you can check the weather forecast back home and post suitable entries on your account about the hospital appointment, job interview, etc you "had" there that day.

    3) Claim honestly and obey all the rules when claiming benefits. This option will not get you into trouble. I am in no way recommending that anybody does anything other than this.

    4) Point out in posts on the web that having a job spying on your own citizens to a creepy degree used to be reviled when it was done in countries like East Germany. Funny how it's become government policy in the UK 30 years later, isan't it? They used to say that they were just "protecting the rule of law" and "on the side of the majority" too.

    5) If your local council (like mine) sets up a "fraud hotline" website, for curtain twitchers to report people they don't like the look of anonymously as "suspicious", make good use of it.They only have limited staff resources.

    1. Justice
      Devil

      Re: A number of options

      I use Social Media BECAUSE it's dumb... or rather, it's drones are.

      You can seed no end of employer bamboozles. Heckin' time offs!!!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lawful Social Media searching

    Good luck finding anything actually posted by me coz there is nowt there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lawful Social Media searching

      No, but with an accent like that, we know you're in Yorkshire ;)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lawful Social Media searching

        Oh, bugger.

  9. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

    Thurveillance

    > the commissioner Lord Igor Judge

    The Igor said "Thir thould not thnoop tho much."

    STPA

    (Sir Terry Pratchett Applies...)

  10. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    If you've done nothing wrong ..

    If you've done nothing wrong then you've got nothing to hide ..

    V for Vendetta: The Revolutionary Speech

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