UK police purchase cell phone monitoring system

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?

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17 Comments

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It is if used without court authority it is a clear case of prosecutable invasion of privacy, clear and simple.The reason for having court orders to obtain landline,mobile,internet and other forms of communication covert or other wise, is written in plain black and white within the English law and cannot be circmvented on the whim of a Police Inspector or his subordinates.
The technology for intercepting electronic communications has been around for many years as have the ground rules.The question is not so much the technology itself but why the supposed purchase would be made so openly obvious to the public at large.

How does it connect to the operators network, and there are 4 network operators in the UK, can it emulate all 4 at the same time?

"upping the spying ante"

Can we drop the scaremongering? Your average UK citizen is not "spied" on. If the government wants access to call logs, SMS messages and whatever else they can get that already by hounding the mobile operator in question. This is merely giving law enforcement another method of doing so without having to go through a more cumbersome process.

The majority of CCTV images captured daily will never be used for anything. And if you have such a problem with it you could always just not use a mobile phone.

AFineFrenzy said,
"upping the spying ante"
This is merely giving law enforcement another method of doing so without having to go through a more cumbersome process.

I think the process is cumbersome for a reason, no? Using the example from 1999, do you think the officer would've been able to get a warrant to view the footage from the CCTV cameras to stalk women? No. Checks and balances.

I bet most of you who are complaining have a facebook/twitter account and you share with the world what you do... so intercepting phones isn't anything new.
Regarding BBM and iMessage (which I love) I'm sure that the governments can ask (Blackberry or Apple) to decrypt the information or I'm sure that they have powerful machines that can do that also.

Marius F said,
I bet most of you who are complaining have a facebook/twitter account and you share with the world what you do... so intercepting phones isn't anything new.
Regarding BBM and iMessage (which I love) I'm sure that the governments can ask (Blackberry or Apple) to decrypt the information or I'm sure that they have powerful machines that can do that also.

No. There's a massive difference between choosing to share information and having information taken from you.

In fact I bet you have a facebook/twitter account... Would you mind telling me your email account credentials...? Since, y'know, it wouldn't be anything new for you....

M4x1mus said,

No. There's a massive difference between choosing to share information and having information taken from you.

In fact I bet you have a facebook/twitter account... Would you mind telling me your email account credentials...? Since, y'know, it wouldn't be anything new for you....

Of course I have accounts and I ain't going to give you my passwords, but the thing is that there is nothing you can do to receive those, where the government/police have other ways in getting that.

It's just like with the mobile phones location, you can't see where your friends phone is but if the police calls the NOC of the mobile company they are obliged by rule to give the mobiles phone location.

Youngy said,
Blackberry BBM and now Apple's iMessage are both encrypted. Which presumably protects from this intercept

and yet countries are starting to ban encryption on devices like that to get around that.....

I don't mind too much to be honest, the only thing I do mind is there will be some corrupt police officers who will do illegal things with the information.

Dan~ said,
I don't mind too much to be honest, the only thing I do mind is there will be some corrupt police officers who will do illegal things with the information.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."