The East Lothian Council, a Scottish council area with nearly 100,000 residents, has given local government workers the ability to create fake Facebook accounts, befriend citizens and spy on them.
Meanwhile, in Russia, Edward Snowden is feeling a disturbance in the force.
The local government recently finalized these plans and intends to roll out the operation, which is designed for the prevention of disorder and perceived mischief, before possibly doing so in other areas… like the neighboring capital of Edinburgh. Their plans were revealed in a document titled Surveillance through Social Media.
Here’s how their ring of spies will operate:
“Investigating officers” will be allowed to use social media, particularly Facebook, for surveillance purposes. They will first create a fake account on the platform and will then send a friend request to citizens suspected of being up to no good (cue Fresh Prince theme). These spies will also be able to begin personal relationships with third party users and join various Facebook groups.
In some cases, these IOs will be allowed to spy via their private or departmental identity. Basically, this means that officers can spy on you with and your with our your knowledge.
“To investigate a service user whose Facebook account is protected by privacy settings, the investigating officer will have to send the service user a friend request. If the officer frequently or regularly views/visits the same individual’s profile this must be considered as targeted. However if the service user posts publicly, they can have no expectation of privacy,” an excerpt of the controversial document reads.
It should be noted that investigating officers will need to obtain official authorization from a higher authority before friending people with their covert aliases, though. That said, it’s not exactly reassuring. breitbart.com reports that the East Lothian Council issued a statement insisting that these officers are limited to spying on locals for the “prevention and detection of crime or disorder, and for public health and safety.”
They said they’ve received overwhelming support to move forward with this operation, likely from higher authorities, but the public backlash has been immense. Jason Rose, 2015 green candidate for Westminster, is one of those who are speaking up and says that the councilors who voted in favor of this ring of social media spies have lost the plot.
The Metro News quoted him as saying: “I cannot believe our councilors have agreed this policy. It speaks volumes that a council which is so poor at communicating with the public and does not make its meetings available to view online, agrees a covert surveillance policy in such a secretive way.”
And just in case you want to be one of those snitches in Scotland, or be an inside man, here’s this:
— East Lothian Council (@ELCouncil) April 26, 2016
Ain’t that a B?