Friday, August 8, 2014

UK Police Won't Admit They're Tracking People's Phone Calls


 You've maybe heard a bit about Stingray. Over the past couple of years, it has emerged that police forces in the US have been using the  powerful surveillance tool, which tricks phones into connecting to a dragnet, to track mobile devices, and intercept calls and text messages.

Meanwhile, the London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) continue to remain tight lipped about their use of the technology, leaving citizens in the dark on what privacy protections, if any, are in place for those who may get swept up by the broad surveillance techniques.

Back in 2011, the MPS bought a new piece of equipment that can,  as reported by the Guardian, “masquerade as a mobile phone network, transmitting a signal that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, intercept communications and gather data about thousands of users in a targeted area.” The protocol under which the classified hardware is used goes by the name of "Listed X," the Guardian noted.

This sort of capability sounds very similar to the StingRay, a brand name for a technology used by dozens of law enforcement agencies in the US. Although the suitcase-sized Stingray units are designed to counter terrorism, they have been deployed on normal criminal investigations by the LAPD,  according to LA Weekly.

Internal emails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in June show how local police push to keep the use of StingRay out of court documents. “Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police,”  the ACLU's Maria Kayanan wrote.

When I asked Dr. Richard Tynan, a technologist at  Privacy International, whether the comparison of the UK's Listed X to StingRay in the US was fair, he said, simply: “They're identical.”

For the rest of the story:

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