Senior cabinet minister in the United Kingdom , Eric Pickles, has launched a strong attack on public bodies, including the BBC and the Royal Mail, that have powers to carry out secret surveillance on members of the public but are refusing to say how they’re using them.
A range of public bodies, under a controversial legislation, have the authority to demand that phone companies hand over records of calls, secretly follow people without their knowledge and record their movements, reports The Independent.
But despite an attempt by ministers to clamp down on misuse of the powers, seven well-known organisations refused to provide details of their activities under the controversial Regulation of Investigative Powers Act (RIPA).
Communities Secretary Pickles has criticised their silence, who hinted that the Government could extend regulations, brought in for local authorities using RIPA powers, which would require them to get permission from a magistrate before being allowed to conduct surveillance.
“For public bodies, funded by and working for the taxpayer, to be using RIPA yet so vociferously trying to avoid accountability is simply unacceptable,” he said in a report.
“Only in those situations where serious crimes are taking place and when there are no less intrusive alternative routes of investigation (should the powers be used). That’s why we need robust accountability of all state bodies, not just local authorities, to ensure these state powers are not used without proper justification,” he added.
The report also detailed how between 2009 and 2011 local authorities used the powers more than 9,600 times, before the Government changed the law requiring them to seek a magistrate’s approval.
The BBC confirmed that TV Licensing did use RIPA, but declined to give further details so as not to prejudice law enforcement. Royal Mail said they were aware of the report but declined to comment further.