The Yorkshire post reveals examples of civil servants abusing their positions by spying on their friends and neighbours.
"At one hospital, in Rotherham, a cleaner was caught only last month accessing the private medical files of a friend to determine that she had recently had an abortion."
Undoubtedly this is the tip of the iceberg.
The difference between here and East Germany is that this abuse isn't state sanctioned. However, a large part of the apparatus is present for minor civil servants to spy on people.
Update 27th January 2011. David Allen Green suggests an interesting abduction in a New Statesman article, Police and RIPA requests,
"One of the interesting questions raised by the developing scandal into the use of phone-tapping by tabloid reporters and private investigators is: how did they get the telephone numbers and other data, such as pin codes?Check out the New Statesman link for more details.
There is currently no evidence that the police wrongly used their RIPA request powers to pass on (or even sell) information to reporters and journalists. So I am not making any suggestion of wrongdoing, and my supposition here may well be wrong."