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UK Police to practice their own form of "phone hacking"
May 17, 2012 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Met Police to extract suspects' mobile phone data [BBC] The Metropolitan Police, covering Greater London, are set to expand their search powers by making it standard practice to swipe contact details, call logs, and texts off of the mobile phones of anyone in custody - and retain that data - regardless of whether the suspect ends up charged with a crime or not. Clearly not everyone is over the moon about this, seeing it as the latest sign of the steady erosion of communications privacy in the UK and a potential breach of human rights law.
posted by LondonYank (43 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shouldn't the police have at least the same level of access that Rupert Murdoch enjoys?
posted by R. Schlock at 11:45 AM on May 17, 2012 [9 favorites]


Won't this just result in "people of interest" being arrested on trumped-up charges just for their social network information?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:48 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Won't this just result in "people of interest" being arrested on trumped-up charges just for their social network information?

That would never happen! I'm sure that hasn't occurred to anyone who came up with this!
posted by rtha at 11:50 AM on May 17, 2012 [14 favorites]


Well, this is certainly a good argument for not running any Android rom not built from the Open Source Project any time in the near future. Good luck with that encryption, boys.
posted by jaduncan at 11:51 AM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is one of many, many reasons I won't be going back home anytime soon. Reports from the old country are that this kind of crap is not at all surprising considering the way things have been going.

Shame. At least I have somewhere else I can be, I guess.
posted by Brockles at 11:51 AM on May 17, 2012


That would never happen! I'm sure that hasn't occurred to anyone who came up with this!

To be fair, on rereading the article, there was this:

Guidelines given to officers state that data extraction can happen only if there is sufficient suspicion the mobile phone was used for criminal activity.


but that seems like a rather flimsy shield. Who gets to decide :sufficient suspicion?"
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:52 AM on May 17, 2012


Not content to just cover up phone hacking, now engaging in it themselves!
posted by jonbro at 11:55 AM on May 17, 2012


Who gets to decide :sufficient suspicion?"

In day-to-day stuff, probably a reasonable person subjective test (tests partly depend on what crime is suspected).
posted by jaduncan at 11:57 AM on May 17, 2012


Has England, especially London, really become as Orwellian as it seems or am I overblowing it in my mind from selective news reading? Is there a similar issue in non-England UK (Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland)? I haven't spent any time in London in about a decade, although I lived there in 1999. Even then, I noticed that CCTV's were everywhere, which felt much different than where I had lived in the US.
posted by Falconetti at 11:58 AM on May 17, 2012


Has England, especially London, really become as Orwellian as it seems or am I overblowing it in my mind from selective news reading?

It's getting there.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:05 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why don't they just get that info from people's facebook profiles?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:10 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


because where's the fun in that
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


According to the Guardian article, it doesn't sound like London is the first place in the UK to use this. It also doesn't make it clear if this can actually bypass a smartphone PIN - most of the photos of the device that I saw on their site seem to show a simple feature phone, so I'm not sure. On the other hand I gather there have been several iPhone vulnerabilities in at least 3GS and 4 allowing pin bypass, and they do specify that they can get past per-application PIN locks on the device, so it doesn't seem impossible.
posted by jacalata at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2012


I'm going to write an Android app that allows users to obliterate every scrap of data on the device by yelling a keyword into the mic. For a keyword I suggest, "FREEDOM!"
posted by klanawa at 12:17 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm going to write an Android app that allows users to obliterate every scrap of data on the device by yelling a keyword into the mic. For a keyword I suggest, "FREEDOM!"
posted by klanawa at 8:17 PM on May 17 [+] [!]


Get them to turn on encryption in ICS phones. It's a proper encryption unlock at boot based on a hashed decryption key, so all one needs to do is to turn off the phone as the police approach. Even the recovery can't access the main area.
posted by jaduncan at 12:19 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also think that the wording in this post is more alarmist than what the article actually says, and it would be better phrased as "The Metropolitan Police, covering Greater London, are set to expand their search powers by making it standard practice to swipe contact details, call logs, and texts off of the mobile phones of anyone in custody if the phones are reasonably suspected of being used in a crime - and retain that data regardless of whether the suspect ends up charged with a crime or not." There is, to me, no implication that they'll do this if you get brought in for drunk driving, for instance.
posted by jacalata at 12:19 PM on May 17, 2012


What someone needs to do is write an Android trojan that uploads all their files to Wikileaks.

(Note: my understanding of writing code is that it's essentially magic with typing. I'd like to think this is possible, though.)
posted by Grangousier at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


It should be noted that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 allows the police to force you to give them a password with the penalty of years in prison. They do need to have reasonable suspicion of a serious crime to do so, though, so it is unlikely to come into play with a fishing expedition.

I am not your lawyer.
posted by jaduncan at 12:22 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also think that the wording in this post is more alarmist than what the article actually says

Fair enough. But history is rife with abuse of this kind of discretionary search power by the authorities.
posted by LondonYank at 12:25 PM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


my understanding of writing code is that it's essentially magic with typing

That is a fairly reasonable approximation of the truth.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:31 PM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


I suppose the police do have a difficult job, keeping everyone in line. People have to learn that The Law is supreme over all. Your petty bullshit couldn't be less important. Follow the rules, do as you're told, or they will get you. And if they are in a good mood and come rub your belly, you better wiggle that leg, or you're going to be damn sorry.
posted by Goofyy at 12:32 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Get them to turn on encryption in ICS phones. It's a proper encryption unlock at boot based on a hashed decryption key, so all one needs to do is to turn off the phone as the police approach. Even the recovery can't access the main area.

That means you can't
a) record your encounter with the police
b) make use of the I'm getting arrested app
posted by K.P. at 12:36 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


my understanding of writing code is that it's essentially magic with typing.

Me too, but that is likely to be a more sophisticated understanding of it than the average UK policeperson will have.

It's an Orwellian nightmare, agreed, but one silver lining is that 'hacktivists' have been set a deliciously tempting challenge.
posted by colie at 12:53 PM on May 17, 2012


I guess I'd feel more sanguine (well, not that I ever would feel sanguine about this sort of thing) if I didn't know such a broad spectrum of people who have been accused of various protest-related "crimes", mostly after being kettled by police. The list of "crimes" is long, even though as far as I can tell people tend reflexively to assume that crime is "something I would not only disapprove of but could never ever imagine doing". I can't imagine that someone arrested at a protest (or heck, on some trumped up Islamophobic charge as well) won't be deemed to have potentially used their cell phone in the "crime" - they virtually certainly called someone to say "I'm here, right in front of the big 'We Say No To The EDL' banner" or whatever, ergo the phone was used in the "crime" of not being able to get out of the kettle.
posted by Frowner at 1:01 PM on May 17, 2012


Here's How Law Enforcement Cracks Your iPhone's Security Code

Micro Systemation had told me that XRY can gain access to phones that run the latest version of iOS. But in fact, it can only gain access to older iPhones and iPads running the latest version of the operating system, and can’t access the iPhone 4S or the iPad 2 or later.

Google Circumvents Safari Privacy Protections
posted by dubold at 1:21 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile FBI Unable to get past unlock code on android, they needed to serve a warrant on Google to get the information.

Obviously the UK government could just demand that any smartphone sold be unlockable with police tools, so if you want security you'll need to be running a custom ROM.
posted by delmoi at 1:40 PM on May 17, 2012


I'm going to write an Android app that allows users to obliterate every scrap of data on the device by yelling a keyword into the mic. For a keyword I suggest, "FREEDOM!"

I'll give you a couple of months before it becomes illegal to destroy possible mobile phone evidence of suspected criminal activity.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:55 PM on May 17, 2012


I'm getting arrested app

God, it makes me so sad that my first thoughts after reading about that app were how brilliant and necessary it is. I agree with some of the comments on the site though: you sure as hell had better already have your phone out when your encounter with the cops begin, because otherwise, if they see you reaching into your pocket or bag for something....

There is, to me, no implication that they'll do this if you get brought in for drunk driving, for instance.

Any power given to law enforcement will eventually be abused. Any power given to anyone will eventually be abused, in truth, but the abuse of this one can lead to some frightening things: friends and family getting rousted for having exchanged a high volume of messages with the "suspect" etc.
posted by lord_wolf at 1:56 PM on May 17, 2012


Any power given to law enforcement will eventually be abused.

This should be taught in elementary schools.

Maybe then fewer people will have to learn it the hard way.
posted by regicide is good for you at 2:18 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


""The Metropolitan Police, covering Greater London, are set to expand their search powers by making it standard practice to swipe contact details, call logs, and texts off of the mobile phones of anyone in custody if the phones are reasonably suspected of being used in a crime - and retain that data regardless of whether the suspect ends up charged with a crime or not." There is, to me, no implication that they'll do this if you get brought in for drunk driving, for instance."

posted by jacalata

Depends whether you are black or not.

This is bullshit, they will be able to get peoples phone data for anything, and as there are a whole amount of things you can be arrested for now which are ridiculous this will be way open to abuse. For e.g.

"These sections give the police the power to order people to leave the land if they're believed to be preparing to hold a rave ( 2 or more people); waiting for a rave to start (10+); actually attending a rave (10+). Ignoring this direction, or returning to the land within the next week, are both offences, liable to 3 months' imprisonment and/or a £2,500 fine."

From the Criminal Justice act, Part 5, sections 64 & 65. Seeing as person 1 probably rang person 2 to invite them to the illegal rave, the phone has been used in a criminal act.
posted by marienbad at 2:39 PM on May 17, 2012


There is, to me, no implication that they'll do this if you get brought in for drunk driving, for instance.

I hesitate to link to past FPPs that were contentious, but existing laws as passed leave no implication that if you are busted for drug possession that you will be locked in a holding cell with no food and water for five days, or that if your medical alert bracelet sends out a false alarm that you will be shot to death in your apartment, or that if you exercise your freedom of assembly and sit silently in protest on campus that you will be pepper-sprayed from a foot away, but these things mainfestly happen. Maybe I am in a cynical mood because earlier this week a report released by the RCMP concerning the RCMP's conduct during the 2010 was found by the RCMP to be blameless. sorry, "blameless" is not the right word: it found that "on balance" they did "a pretty good job" of policing. So that is all right then.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:15 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there anywhere good to live? This is not a rhetorical question.
posted by windykites at 3:24 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: "my understanding of writing code is that it's essentially magic with typing

That is a fairly reasonable approximation of the truth.
"

and mefi comments
posted by symbioid at 3:25 PM on May 17, 2012


Has England, especially London, really become as Orwellian as it seems or am I overblowing it in my mind from selective news reading?...Even then, I noticed that CCTV's were everywhere, which felt much different than where I had lived in the US.

On CCTV alone, understanding it and its role in the UK is more complex than just counting. Already the idea that the UK has huge masses of CCTV cameras has been thoroughly debunked, especially outside of London. Moreover, the police in my area don't give a shit about CCTV. I live in a town with a small CCTV system (about a dozen or so cameras) and it's really not ever used for crimes, with police briefings stressing the importance of reporting by shopkeepers of suspicious activity. Maybe other people use it, but it seems more as though it was set up to "do something about crime" by the local politicians to get votes. However, as local government has almost no control over actual policing, CCTV is all they had. It's regarded as a bit of a joke by local residents, and it wouldn't surprise me if the system was discontinued in the next decade, as there's little rational use for it.

In short, CCTV camera numbers aren't a great indicator of what things are like on the ground.
posted by Jehan at 4:11 PM on May 17, 2012


Further, CCTV where I live runs at about one camera for every 1500 people, which isn't very high, and nowhere near the absurd "1 for every 14 people" claim. Outside of three or four streets in my town, there are no more public CCTV cameras for 6 miles. The council claims that their 108 cameras (that's for the whole local government area) capture about 100 criminals a year, which is less than one crime resolved for each camera every year. Crimes are known to happen in full view of CCTV, without any usuable footage from the cameras. I dread to think just how hard it would be to keep tabs on the population like from 1984 with such shitty and sparse equipment. Maybe London is much different, but stories about "mass surveillance culture" are just as alien to me as they are to you.
posted by Jehan at 4:29 PM on May 17, 2012


I'll give you a couple of months before it becomes illegal to destroy possible mobile phone evidence of suspected criminal activity.

I'd be surprised if it isn't already though only as a special case of a much broader law against destroying evidence.
posted by Mitheral at 4:39 PM on May 17, 2012


existing laws as passed leave no implication that if you are busted for drug possession that you will be locked in a holding cell with no food and water for five days, or that if your medical alert bracelet sends out a false alarm that you will be shot to death in your apartment, or that if you exercise your freedom of assembly and sit silently in protest on campus that you will be pepper-sprayed from a foot away
I don't hear about those kinds of things nearly as often in terms of the British police - one big difference is that they don't carry guns. I can only think of three examples - one was the killing of that Brazilian guy after 9/11, another involved the police shoving someone who hit his head during a protest, and then the most recent shooting that set off riots. That isn't to say there are no abuses, but clearly the lack of guns prevents a lot of them.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on May 17, 2012


Not as often, but, boy, do we deal with them well.

2005, Cressida Dick is in charge of the operation that led to the death of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes

Then, in The Torygraph, no less

2011, But the most alarming short-term outcome of his departure is that his replacement – in charge of defending London from terrorism – is Cressida Dick.
She, of course, was in charge of the operation which led to Jean Charles de Menezes' death. I would say "murder", were I speaking amongst friends, and not submitting copy for a newspaper website. Shall we agree on "execution"? It is hard to imagine a less fitting person to be in charge of such an important position, and it is impossible to see how she will be able to carry out that role with public approval. Let alone dignity.
What does it tell us, that the Met fills such an important role with such an unsuitable candidate? Two things, I think. Firstly, there is a dearth of leadership talent in our most important Police Service, which needs to be addressed: this is the police force which thought Brian Paddick was suitable as a deputy commissioner, remember. Secondly, and more worryingly, in light of recent events: that it is a police force without shame.


This is not an organisation that I am comfortable granting easily-abusable powers. I'm already shuddering at the thought of the policing of Olympic-related thought/black/poor/muslim/bolshy-crime.

posted by Jakey at 6:41 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


ARSE. Dodgy tags closed, and Torygraph link
posted by Jakey at 6:43 PM on May 17, 2012


jaduncan: "Get them to turn on encryption in ICS phones. It's a proper encryption unlock at boot based on a hashed decryption key, so all one needs to do is to turn off the phone as the police approach. Even the recovery can't access the main area."

Zero points for drama.
posted by klanawa at 9:20 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't hear about those kinds of things nearly as often in terms of the British police - one big difference is that they don't carry guns.

Google the West Midlands Serious Crime Squad and your perspective may alter. Admittedly, they've been disbanded since 1989, but the system that produced that corrupt bunch of arseholes hasn't altered that much. See: Jakey's comment above about Cressida Dick. Plus the sort of crap that ended in the shooting of Mark Duggan and the riots in the UK last year.

On a separate note, I can't see how this will not end up being abused: first it might only be abused for people who, like the Irish in the 1970s and 80s, can be labelled as terrorists and thus easy pickings, but they'll widen that right out, because who would be able to resist a little fishing in these circumstances... And all they have to do is swipe the phone, placing all of that lovely data for later trolling through. And hacking into. Because you know they'll have crap security in place.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:13 AM on May 18, 2012


Don't listen to what G4S say. Look at what they do: The security company will be patrolling the London Olympics with more than 10,000 agents
posted by homunculus at 10:57 AM on June 11, 2012


Every call, every email, every text: UK unveils bill aimed at logging citizens’ Web activity

'Online snooping' scheme expected to cost at least £1.8bn: Home Office reveals pricetag for tracking emails, phone use and Facebook and Twitter accounts as Theresa May attacks critics as 'conspiracy theorists'
posted by homunculus at 11:23 AM on June 16, 2012


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