Mark Whitehead 04 September 2018

Councils defend use of fake facebook profiles

Councils defend use of fake facebook profiles image

Councils in North Wales have defended their right to use fake Facebook profiles to gather information on illegal activities.

Gwynedd and Denbighshire county councils admitted their trading standards departments had used ‘pseudonym’ profiles in investigations into counterfeiting.

They say the method is legal and helps to protect the public and businesses from criminals.

But campaigners Big Brother Watch slammed the tactics as 'shocking'.

They said using social media to gather intelligence was 'a shameful practice' which would interfere with the right to privacy.

Gwynedd council confirmed to LocalGov that it had used a covert profile.

A spokesperson said: 'There are various investigative methods available to the council, including covert investigations with the use of online platforms, which we undertake in accordance with all relevant regulations.

'Such methods can be used by the council in carrying out its duties in relation to Trading Standards, for instance to investigate the alleged sale of illegal or counterfeit goods so that we can help protect consumers, the public in general and legitimate businesses.'

Denbighshire council confirmed an undercover profile is used by its Trading Standards department and one officer had received training in how to use the method for investigations.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute said covert operations had always been a key aspect for enforcement bodies in tackling criminal behaviour.

'As with test purchasing of under-age goods, there are clear guidelines in place under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act for authorities using covert profiles to gather intelligence.

'Trained officers are overseen by a national body, and evidence is logged in the same way as physical evidence would be.

'The covert investigations are conducted in the interest of public safety, often aimed at stopping dangerous and illegal counterfeit products from reaching consumers.'

Automatic planning image

Automatic planning

The new reforms mean local authorities need to mobilise, but is this what’s really required? Paul Beaney reports.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Associate Director – Finance & Commercial

Slough Borough Council
£80,912 to £94,371
As our Associate Director – Finance & Commercial and Deputy 151 Officer you will lead a team of approximately 57 people within... Slough, Berkshire
Recuriter: Slough Borough Council

Channel Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£34,728 - £36,922 per annum
You will need to possess demonstrable knowledge and understanding of the UK Government Counter... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Public Protection Group Leader

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£43,857 - £45,859
You will develop a strategic approach to deliver a service which promotes jobs and businesses, protects the safety of... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Project Officer - Air Quality

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£27,741 - £30,451
We’re looking for an additional team member to support the Senior Environmental Health Officers in... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Homeless Youth Specialist - Senior Practitioner

Essex County Council
Negotiable
In Essex County Council we are "Serious about Social Work". Having recently won the Best Social Work Employer of the Year Award and been awarded 'Ou England, Essex, Harlow
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue