The UK, well-known for having the most surveillance cameras per capita, is upping the spying ante. In addition to the cameras, police will now be able to roll out a device that can trick your cell phone into thinking it’s communicating with a real tower so that they can easily intercept phone calls and SMS messages.
The Guardian reports that the technology, created by Datong Intelligence LED, includes a transceiver the size of a suitcase that can be easily moved to wherever it is needed. Once in place it can blanket an area of up to 10 sq km, allowing law enforcement to either disable all cell phones or secretly intercept and monitor the communications before passing it off to the real network. Civil rights leaders worry that the technology will be used for blanket monitoring during legal protests, despite the presence of laws that attempt to curtail abuses. Their concerns are well founded given the rocky history with the city’s CCTV cameras, including an “operator in Glamorgan who was convicted of more than 200 obscenity charges after using cameras to spy on women and then make obscene phone calls to them from the control room.”
Before you think you’re safe from this spying if you live outside of the UK, you should know that Datong has contracts worth millions of dollars with the United States government and sells its products to dozens of countries.
Even more concerning is the fact that many websites now use SMS messages as an additional form of security or as a way to retrieve a lost password. If Datong can make a device that can steal this data, what’s to stop someone else from doing the same and using it illegally?