Councils have used a law designed to combat terrorism to access more than 900 people's private phone and e-mail records, reports The Daily Telegraph.
Councils have used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) to investigate misdemeanours such as dog fouling, under-age smoking, dog quarantine breaches and unlicensed storage of petrol, reports the paper.
The 2000 Ripa Act was originally brought in to combat terrorism and serious crime.
In April, it was reported that a council in Dorset had used Ripa to spy for weeks on a family wrongly suspected of breaking rules on school catchment areas.
When Ripa was passed, only nine organisations, including the police and security services, were allowed to use it, but that number has since risen to 792, including 474 councils, says the Telegraph.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the paper drew responses from 152 councils, which revealed they had used Ripa to examine 936 people's private communications data in the 2006/7 financial year.