Energy Firms are Spying on Activists in the UK

Environmentalists keep tabs on the corporations and governments they feel pose a threat to the environment, so it might seem only natural that energy firms who stand to benefit from more lax environmental regulations would turn the tables, and do a little digging of their own to see what kind of dirt they could get on the activists that hound them, right?  Except that, it just seems a bit more evil when it’s big companies hiring PI’s to go after “the little guy”, doesn’t it?

Of course it does … and the fact the aforementioned big “companies” (E.ON, Scottish Resources Group, and Scottish Power) happen to be some of the largest coal producers in the UK doesn’t really help me feel any more sympathy for them.

This past Monday, UK’s Guardian published leaked documents that showed that Rebecca Todd, who owns one of the private security groups hired to infiltrate environmental protest groups, tipped off company executives at E.ON about environmentalists’ plans after monitoring their personal email accounts.  Documents also show Todd instructing an agent to attend campaign meetings and coaching the agent on ways to ingratiate himself with the activists.

Some senior police officers complain about the investigators hired by companies like E.ON, primarily because of the lack of regulation, with the Guardian reporting that even the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers went so far as to call “the deployment by completely uncontrolled and unrestrained players in the private sector” a “massive area of concern“.

Over the past few years Todd has used a number different email addresses and proxies to sign up to the mailing lists of a number of environmentalist organizations, ranging from large-scale and high-profile events (like the G20 rallies in London) to smaller demonstrations against E.ON’s Kingsnorth power station.  E.ON’s spokesmen, however, told the Guardian that the company only asked Todd to gather publicly available information, and that – if Todd and her colleagues had somehow obtained personal/protected information – they had done so “under their own steam” …

… but I don’t believe that for a second, and think this is a clear case of E.ON getting caught with its hand in the cookie jar.

It’s not entirely clear from the Guardian’s article what (if any) laws E.ON, Scottish Power, and Scottish Resources Group broke by hiring Todd to infiltrate these groups, but I imagine hope that such negative PR is bad for business.

Sourcethe Guardian.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.