City council snoops on emails and phone calls to catch litterbugs

Who wouldn't sacrifice privacy to win the high stakes war on litterbugs?


Kevin Morris

Internet Culture

Published Jul 10, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 11:44 am CDT

You’ve got to hand it to the city council of Wyndham, Australia, a Melbourne suburb with a population of about 17,000. They’ve taken the surveillance state to its creepiest and yet most everyday extreme: If you litter, or own an unregistered pet, the council will catch you, because they’re monitoring your email and phone calls.

The council has snooped on its residents nearly 50 times in three years, the Wyndham Weekly reports, solely to catch perpetrators of these minor offenses. Like the NSA, the council isn’t necessarily reading resident emails directly. Instead, they’re looking at metadata—the information underneath the words, that reveals info like your name and the time and place from which the communication was sent.

Also like the NSA, the council doesn’t see anything wrong with what its doing. Its snooping into your private life to help you, of course. “Retrieving a telephone subscriber’s name and address for an investigation into an offence is an important tool,” the council’s chief executive told the Wyndham Weekly.

Who wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice their personal privacy to help win the high stakes war on litterbugs?

H/T BoingBoing | Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III

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*First Published: Jul 10, 2013, 12:49 pm CDT