Prominent legal professionals, union leaders and campaigners have questioned how Police Scotland's new specialist unit to stop gangsters infiltrating local authorities and public sector contracts would work.
The unit aims to offer advice to councils, the NHS, quangos and the Government amid concern that vulnerabilities among staff, including substance misuse, financial problems and inappropriate connections, may leave them potentially at risk of corruption.
Increased random drug testing has been suggested as one approach to tackle the issue.
Advocate Niall McCluskey, a human rights lawyer, said the need for the unit has been "totally overblown", adding that the measures ran the risk of being "disproportionate and potentially illegal".
He added: "What does 'look for vulnerabilities amongst staff' actually mean? Who dictates what the problems are? This is really Big Brother stuff potentially leading to all sorts of civil liberties issues.
"It's public authorities we're dealing with, employers required to adhere to human rights legislation. Looking for vulnera-bilities opens a Pandora's box, as does inappropriate associations. And there are plenty of people in the current climate who have financial problems."
Bruce Caldow, partner and head of employment at legal firm Harper Macleod, said different norms in the public and private sector regarding human rights within workforce relations threw up a raft of difficulties for employers expected to monitor staff for signs of corruption.
Mr Caldow added: "A crackdown on any matter in the public sector by introducing new methods, such as imposing checks on staff and their credit worthiness so as to identify financial problems, would have to be approached with quite a degree of caution.
"There's a potential for work-force upset, refusal to consent to checks, for claims saying employ-ers are overstepping the mark, that there's been intrusion into private lives or that the matter is irrelevant to their jobs. Blanket checking of staff for alcohol or substance abuse could be entirely disproportionate to an employee's own right to a private life."
Public sector union Unison said it supported measures to safe-guard the public purse but Scott-ish secretary Mike Kirby added: "What we may have here is a belief by the police that their own systems and practices regarding employee relations in a uniformed service apply elsewhere in the public sector. They don't."
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "Of course we need to protect the public sector from organised crime, but action should be proportionate. There is the potential for staff who are in vulnerable situations, whether because of drugs or financial issues, to be even less inclined to come forward and ask for help for an increased fear that they may lose their jobs."
Police Scotland's Detective Superintendent Sean Scott said: "This is about organisations having practices and procedures in place which safeguard their people and their functions against criminal activity."