UK Police Bought Privacy Invading Phone Snooping Tech – Report

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Rights groups are up in arms after it emerged several UK police forces have purchased controversial mobile phone snooping technology notorious for enabling indiscriminate surveillance.

Widely used by US law enforcers, IMSI-catchers mimic mobile phone base towers, allowing police to locate specific devices and intercept communications to help with investigations.

However, the technology also sweeps up info on all devices in an area of up to 8km, raising privacy fears.

Media co-operative the Bristol Cable finally confirmed suspicions that UK police have the technology, also known as a Stingray, and are likely using it, after it worked out the special acronym they use to describe it.

The Met and five other forces including Avon and Somerset Constabulary, West Mercia and Warwickshire police have reportedly purchased "covert communications data capture" equipment (CCDC) from UK firm Cellxion – spending hundreds of thousands of pounds in the process.

It’s still unclear what they’re being used for and rights groups are calling for greater transparency from the police.

Privacy International advocacy officer Matthew Rice described the revelations as representing “a new frontier for indiscriminate surveillance.”

“It is inevitable that innocent members of the public will be caught up in this suspicion-less surveillance. We deserve better from our police forces than their position of neither confirming nor denying the use of such technology. This is not policing by consent, this is policing by obfuscation,” he told Infosecurity.

“This is a framework for abuse we should all be concerned about when it comes to discussing policing and the use of surveillance technology.”

Rice added that it’s still unclear what legislation covers the use of IMSI catchers, with no police force prepared to break ranks over the privacy-invading tech funded by taxpayers’ money.

“It is not acceptable that our devices and networks can betray us,” he argued. “A transparent legal regime is required so that the public can understand when they may be subjected to these surveillance devices and be notified when they were put under surveillance to challenge any unlawful use.”

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