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Mass snooping fake mobile towers 'uncovered in UK' (bbc.co.uk)
318 points by TranceMan on June 10, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

The Mets stance on this to me seals any doubt about their involvement in deploying these boxes. I've been watching developments in the surveillance state in the UK with some concern, this just puts the final nail in the coffin.

You can't defend such dragnet surveillance techniques as 'terrorist prevention'. How can I make a difference?

I don't want my country to become America 2.0 (It's already starting to look like that with water cannons on standby, internet filtering and now this).

No offense, but I always thought the UK is surveillance state #1 in the world and the US follows a close second. Why? There is no country in the world with more public surveillance cameras, and they were always playing ball with the US when it came to mass collection of citizens data.

Yeah, agreed.

Having spent half my life in one and half in the other it is very interesting to compare the different ways in which attitudes to privacy and personal integrity are violated.

In the UK it is normal for everything to be surveilled. CCTV on every corner and every road etc. To someone with a "rugged individualist" US attitude this is appalling. "What, what, you're going to give me a speeding ticket and you didn't even have to catch me doing it? WTF, that's not cool."

Yet in the US it is rather normal for people in authority to kill someone when the target is running away or convicted of a crime. To the UK attitude this is barbarous.

How it feels to me is that the UK tends to co-opt a lot of modern US ideas badly: without empathy or sympathy or respect for individual rights. In the US it feels like there is at least some measure of collective guilt (or at least shame) over surveillance whereas in the UK those doing it are either gleeful or at least remorseless.

On the other hand, the UK is IIRC the last European country and one of the few globally to not have a formal identity card. Partly due to some dedicated campaigners and partly due to history. The mostly unarmed police are another historical accident to be defended.

The UK certainly does look too readily across the Atlantic for bad ideas. But most of the home grown ones come out of a sort of domestic colonialism and shrinking empire. British police and (para)military forces were quite capable of street violence in Kenya in the 50s & Northern Ireland in the 70s & 80s. The frontier shrinks slowly; Scottish independence comes slowly closer, seemingly with almost no violence. Newspapers dispatch foreign correspondents from London to cover Manchester and Birmingham. People in the coastal towns complain of distant government that's only an hour away by train. It's more inattentional blindness that's the problem than physical distance.

The Met's antiterrorist role has let it take on the hard edge. But there is also a public demand for aggression against those percieved as "bad". People demand that "something must be done" while being vague about what that involves and who might suffer.

> People demand that "something must be done" while being vague about what that involves and who might suffer.

Yeah, excellent point. The British need for someone, anyone, to blame and be punished for everything ever is worthy of several dissertations.

That's just the Daily Mail; and it's not "someone, anyone", it's immigrants.

It's not "just the Daily Mail", and it's not just immigrants. Much as it would be nice to know that such attitudes are an extreme fringe viewpoint, the reality is a lot of people in Britain hold them.

Sure, I was being flippant. That said, I think it's closer to the mark to put this on a minority than to paint it as being some characteristic element of the British psyche, as if there's even such a thing as the British psyche.

> People demand that "something must be done"

Yes, Prime Minister nailed this one:

Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.

If we're talking about ideas crossing over, Malaya and Kenya definitely inspired much of today's US focus on counter-insurgency, and Kitson's book on the subject [1] is still popular reading across the pond. He did talk about the necessity for the law to become occasionally "malleable"...

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Low-Intensity-Operations-Subversion-Pe...

Do you break speed limits a lot then?


No sir, not me, not these days.

When I was younger, and in the US, and frequently traveling between states I did manage to rack up a significant number of speeding tickets. There were all, to use a UK term, a fair cop: I was speeding and I was caught by an officer of the law patrolling the roads who stopped me and gave me a ticket in person.

Getting them in the mail several days after the fact, without ever knowing you were speeding in the first place is a) confusing, b) not great for immediate enforcement and safety concerns.

But let's be fair, traffic tickets are rarely about safety.

Disagree. The one UK speeding ticket I have was for being over 30mph in a 30 zone. The limit is set to 30 in those zones because of Science™ about braking distance and impact with human bodies that appear suddenly.

If I'm being careless and/or distracted in one of those zones, I want to know about it immediately, not up to 14 days later after I've already plowed through a bunch of schoolchildren.

Speeding tickets on freeways are rarely about safety. One should never speed in a school zone or neighborhood street.

I got a ticket for not making a full stop before turning at a red light (this was in Long Island). The mail came with URL to a video of my infraction. It was fun giving to other people to watch..

Well here they all are: http://www.longislandredlightcameras.com/

In my experience driving in the U.K, most of the major roads (motorways/dual carraigeways)have average speed cameras liberally placed on the road. I don't know what the threshold for a ticket is on the road, but I would guess you're more likely to be noticed doing 75MPH over a 5 mile stretch of road than by a cop in a bush with a speed camera.

> In my experience driving in the U.K, most of the major roads (motorways/dual carriageways)have average speed cameras liberally placed on the road.

Most major roads definitely do _not_ have average speed cameras placed liberally along them. The only average speed cameras I can recall encountering are at roadworks sites (a move I 100% support) and along a couple of more scenic A-roads that are particularly enjoyable to drive along at high speed.

There are plans to introduce more average speed cameras on the new managed motorways, but I feel it is incorrect to claim they are liberally placed along most major roads.

I'm in Scotland, and drove from South of Glasgow up as far as Fort William, across to Aviemore, and back down to Edinburgh about 3 weeks ago. Almost all of the A roads (exception of Stirling back to Edinburgh) had average speed cameras

I really don't think that's true - the Highland council apparently doesn't have any fixed cameras let alone average speed ones, with the exception of the A9:


I'd be pretty surprised if there were any average speed cameras along the A86 along Lagganside!

That doesn't match my experience. Perhaps the cameras are very new because I can only remember encountering average speed cameras once or twice ever in the 15 years I've driven in Scotland.

> I feel it is incorrect to claim they are liberally placed along most major roads.

You may feel this. However, it does not match with my driving experience. I would suggest that as (in my experience) variable speed camera zones tend to come-and-go we may just have different experiences due to driving different roads or even driving the same roads on different dates.

If most motorway/a-road network have "average speed cameras liberally placed" along them as you and maccard claim, then presumably us driving different roads on different days would make no difference? Of course we might just have very different definitions of liberally!

I think that we just have different experiences because (to quote myself) > variable speed camera zones tend to come-and-go

I drove from Stoke-on-Trent to South Wales a couple of weeks back and there are still average speed cameras plotted through from the M6 down to Birmingham, the M5 and the M4 - essentially all the way.

I'm all for them if there are roadworks, but the problem is, is that for 90% of it, there is no damned reason for them!

On top of that, it's hard to stay aware of what speed you should be doing when it goes through: 70, 50, 30, 40, 70, 60, 50, 30, 50 (no lies) every few miles. It's a bloody farce.

> I'm all for them if there are roadworks, but the problem is, is that for 90% of it, there is no damned reason for them!

From my observations (which are limited and unsystematic) some of these 'roadworks' are not roadworks but an excuse to put out an average speed check.

> On top of that, it's hard to stay aware of what speed you should be doing when it goes through: 70, 50, 30, 40, 70, 60, 50, 30, 50 (no lies) every few miles. It's a bloody farce.

This could easily be technologically solved. Why can't the highways agency publish these speedlimits in real time (with a sensible API) and allow our GPS devices (or even our cruise control) to tell us the speed limit.

There are already big clear signs that the attentive meatbag driving module is trained to use to adjust its driving speed appropriately.

Actually this "attentive meatbag driving module" would rather focus on actually important stuff like other cars and potentially whatever else (debris, people, animals etc) rather than checking the speedo and remembering what the last arbitrary speed limit sign said at all times.

I'm not saying speed limits aren't important. I basically never speed. However, there are things one could better use one's attention on whilst driving.

Which is fine and dandy until you go through 10 speed limits in 5 minutes.

The threshold is generally accepted as 10% over, so 77mph on a motorway. However, I only know that from hearsay, so take it with a pinch of salt.

My understanding was that the 10% margin is to defend a fine or prosecution bearing in mind the error bars of the camera and the vehicle speedometer.

Again, no credible source.

Dad, if you read this I didn't mean it, you are very credible.

Facts: My friend just gone done for 48 in a 40. They told him the law in that county was 10% + 3 which would have come to 47. Off to a speeding course he goes.

Made up: I thought the 10% came from the rules the speedometer is calibrated against which are +10% -0% i.e. Your speed will be 30mph but you could be doing 27. You will never be doing 31.

I guess the plus number is whatever the council have chosen to enforce. Another person from the country thinks it's 10%+2

edit: Here you go, it's a more nuanced than above. Europe's law. Read Page 8 - http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp29/wp29regs/...

Displayed (V1 ) and the true speed (V2)

0 ≤ (V1 - V2) ≤ 0.1 V2 + 4 km/h

I think it's 10% + 2mph? So on a motorway or dual carriageway the limit is really 79.

It used to be generally accepted that you were safe doing 80 mph but with the proliferation of average speed cameras people are a bit more conservative.

10 years ago it wasn't unusual to see people doing 90 - 100 on a motorway - now it's rare.

> So on a motorway or dual carriageway the limit is really 79.

Nope. The limit is really 70, however to take into account possible inaccuracy in your speedometer or the traffic camera, there's some leeway in place. If you start assuming the limit is 79 then if nothing else, you no longer have the benefit of that leeway. How sure are you that both your speedometer and the camera are 100% accurate?

That's what I'm lead to believe too, although I have no facts to back it up.

> in the US it is rather normal for people in authority to kill someone when the target is running away or convicted of a crime

Oh shove off.

It seems to be quite a common perception of the US here in the UK. It's a shock seeing police with guns in the US and there's lots of articles like


"England/Wales: 55 fatal police shootings in the last 24 years" "US: 59 fatal police shootings in the first 24 days of 2015"

I've commented about this before[0] but figured I'd add: it's not the fact that police carry guns, it's the way that they use them. To paraphrase my other comment, Australian police also carry guns and yet the number of people shot dead by police is 0.25/million people/year compared to 1.25/million people/year in the USA.

Perhaps this is driven by the large amount of gun ownership and gun crime in the US, but I suspect it also comes down to cultural differences between police in the two countries.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8890386

> Oh shove off.

Perhaps not "rather normal" but normal enough that Police are rarely prosecuted when it happens and judging by comments here and in other places, people seem divided about whether they even should be.

How do most US citizens look upon the death penalty, then?

It's split like many social policies.[1] Many Americans are not in favor and nineteen states as well as all of the territories and possessions do not even have a death penalty as part of their statutory regime. Many other states have executed 1 person each since 1976 so they are almost non-executing states.


Let them believe what they want. Europeans come to the US and are worried they will be carjacked. Seriously.

"Yet in the US it is rather normal for people in authority to kill someone when the target is running away or convicted of a crime."

330 million people; ~1,000 people die by cop shooting per year (~750,000 police officers in the US), a fraction of those are likely running away or similar. So no, it's not normal by any stretch of mathematical imagination.

This is a comparative statement. The US has an order of magnitude more of this activity than other countries (of similar wealth and government type).

When adjusting for population, the ratio of police shootings in America to those in Britain is about 70:1. (55 shootings in 24 years in a country w/ ~57 million people vs. 59 shootings in 24 days (Jan. 2015) in a country with ~318 million people).

So yes, Americans are vastly more tolerant of police violence (to say nothing of stratospheric incarceration levels) than the British - mainly because black people are so disproportionally targeted in this country.

Indeed, among America's more reactionary elements, the unrestrained use-of-force and incarceration policies behind these figures are vehemently defended, as they provide an effective way to enforce a racially-determined class structure, even in the absence of the Jim Crow laws that performed this role until the late 1960s.

However, none of this would be acceptable if the police were equally harsh with everyone. Indiscriminate oppression is much harder sustain in the U.S. In that regard, we're quite different from the UK, where the "if you've done nothing wrong you've got nothing to hide" attitude is far more prevalent (it's a fixture in comment sections of British news sites, whereas American sites see it crop up far less frequently).

The fact that mass surveillance doesn't easily square with the more "acceptable" (read: racist) forms of police abuse in America is why Americans are far more unified in their opposition to it.

Thank you for the insightful comment.

I found your thesis about the racist nature of police abuse interesting, especially how you tie it to mass surveillance.

I think you are probably right that this plays a large role in which communities and majorities will support or excuse this behavior.

I don't want to draw it too far, though. We should recognize that Muslim Americans get far more surveillance - more targeted surveillance - for merely being Muslim or having Muslim community respect. It's also true that people can and are fooled into believing and supporting principles, spurred by things like nationalism or political party identity, that actively harm or target their own minority groups.

This caveat I don't think invalidates your misgivings, which I think are good. If mass incarcernation and police abuse were as widely practiced on the wealthy or the majority there would be far more outcry.

That's a good point about Muslim Americans. And the American authorities were savvy enough to know that if they wanted to install a system of mass surveillance, the could limit push-back by selling the effort in racially coded terms that would appeal to the reactionary right. In the ensuing "debate" about surveillance, the government could spin clear violations of the 4th Amendment into "a compromise that balances liberty and security."

A note to foreign readers of HN: In America, "terrorism" is an ethnically coded term. Mass shootings by white people - a depressingly frequent occurrence - are almost always described in other terms. In the rare cases where this dodge becomes impossible to pull off (e.g., the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh), the attack will be described as an act of "domestic" terrorism, thereby preserving the clear ethnic subtext that is carried by the unmodified term.

The notable exception to this rule is made for environmental activists, who are branded "eco-terrorists", or left-leaning people protesting economic injustices (e.g., Occupy Wall Street). In these cases, the deliberate use of a term with a strongly xenophobic component is a thinly veiled accusation of treason, which is a line of attack long-favored by the more belligerent critics of the American left (e.g., Joseph McCarthy, who provides the canonical example).

Another really nice contribution. Well phrased.

In the McVeigh case the FBI pronounced (and media reverberated) that the OK City bombings were a Muslim terrorist attack until it was shown, in fact, to be definitively not the case.

The language used to describe McVeigh's crimes and intentions was then continually watered down.

I remember that, do you remember that OKC was only a couple years after Osama bin Laden tried to bomb the World Trade Center and was during a time which Al Qaeda was attacking US-affiliates overseas on a regular basis?

I didn't. I looked it up and found that it was indeed close to the first WTC bombing (though also close to other bombings like the Unabomber campaign).

Yeah, the mask really doesn't have very far to slip.

Sure, but considering we have something like 29x as many fatal shootings per capita in the US versus the UK, arguably, the police here show relative restraint -- not in the sense that the police shootings are a direct response to civilian shootings, but rather that police shootings are a comparatively small percentage over the overall shootings.

I'm not trying to say any of this is good, but my point is that it's incorrect to believe that it's "relatively common for the police to shoot a fleeing suspect".

The only thing you can determine by comparing the rates of non-police shootings between the US and the UK is that effective gun control really is effective, and that the "if guns are outlawed then only outlaws will have guns" argument is demonstrably bullshit.

I mean, it's true in an absolutely literal sense, in that having a gun makes you an outlaw, but it's wildly misleading in suggesting that the unarmed population will be subjected to a significant population of outlaws that has - somehow - managed to remain heavily armed.

To hear the NRA tell it, the law is simply a suggestion, meaning that people who choose to ignore it can do so with impunity. As places like England and Australia have demonstrated, this is absolutely not the case.

Do you mean that the US and UK compare favoratively when measuring "fatal police shootings per generic fatal shooting per capita"?

70x is a lot larger than 29x. If anything the real difference is police are more likely to be armed in the US are are given a free pass when they shoot someone. Generally paperwork and a token investigation is the only major issue.

PS: The safety argument falls flat as truck driving is a significantly more dangerious job in the US. And driving is also the most dangerous part of a cops job.

>There is no country in the world with more public surveillance cameras

Do you have a source for that? Every discussion of the number of CCTV cameras in the UK I've seen has always been talking about both public and private cameras (with by far the majority being private). Also I assume you meant to say per capita.


Yes, per capita, e.g. this article says there is one camera for every eleven people in the UK.


But most of those cameras are privately held for things like security in small shops or around homes or garages. They aren't connected to some centralised Big Brother database. In fact, the authorities probably don't even know most of them are there until, say, the police turn up to investigate a theft from a shop and the owner offers relevant CCTV footage to help the investigation.

There are also a lot of state-controlled cameras monitoring places like public spaces in big cities, and we do have things like ANPR cameras monitoring lots of our roads, and there are genuine and legitimate privacy concerns about these technologies and how they are used. But please let's keep any discussion of them proportionate and based on the facts not the FUD. There are greater threats to privacy in this country than cameras that show you where the queues on the roads are before you set off to your London job in the morning.

That's not actually true. A large amount of those CCTV cameras are in fact managed and monitored by 2 or 3 big security companies, making them much more accessible to the government.

[citation needed]

Yes, but that article is talking about both public and privately owned cameras. You said public cameras. Unless you want the government to ban private CCTV the large number of private CCTV cameras in the UK isn't really much to do with the government.

Also that statistic on its own doesn't show that the UK has the highest rate unless you have number from other (similarly wealthy) countries to compare it to.

CCTV cameras are mandated with new licences for pubs, bars and clubs. The police often force you to have X cameras or your licence will be denied. So the private/public distinction is fairly meaningless.

In my home city, Nottingham, because it's very hard to get a new licence at the moment, the police have such clout I heard of ridiculous scenarios where they started asking for 7 or 8 cameras in small restaurants in quiet areas of town.

It's still not meaningless because the ease of access for the government is drastically different. E.g. having council employed (sometimes) camera operators watching live feeds vs. some owner that is unmotivated to deal with them unless something happens that they need evidence of.

Yeah, a lot of these places are still old school. They might have a DVD recorder in the back office that rewrites after x hours/days. So its not "we mandate them to buy the hardware and that we have access to at all times". Obviously places can do that with firms like ADT, just saying it isn't a clear cut government ploy.

To be fair, as an ex-Nottingham resident, putting a CCTV camera up made life better for us. There were crack whores jacking up on heroin on my doorstep because there was a light there. Eventually I took the bulb out.

Mapperley Road for reference. There were even crack whores on Google Street View on there for a couple of years...

Mapperley Road leading to St. Anns, one of the worst council estates in England?

So not that surprising. Also Mapperley Road leads onto Forest Road East, which at least used to be a notorious red light district and always have really skanky prostitutes hanging out on it.

You lived on a really bad street.

I lived 10 minutes down the road from you about 8 years ago, Zulla road. That area was really nice, although they'd recently finished a big campaign to stop robberies in the area due to, you guessed it, St Ann's residents.

I really don't think one extreme problem area should be compared to a restaurant in Hockley where all the hipsters hang out.

Indeed. This was in in early 00's for ref.

I think it should be compared. Hockley is right at the bottom of "Wells Road" at the arse end of St Annes and was a notorious shit hole in the early 00s.

Genuinely surprised they managed to clean the place up.

Still glad I escaped.

it's sad that the solution for this society problems are cameras in your place. that you are thankfull for this total surveillance is fucked up. I hope UK leaves EU soon. it is a rotten place and we should prevent it's dystopian development to spread.

The EU have nothing to do with that.

Hell, I don't think even the foaming-at-the-mouth UKIP eurosceptics try to claim the UK turned into a surveillance society due to the EU. Neither did the EU ask the UK to lead the global surveillance efforts in Europe through GCHQ. Not to mention the fact that it is David Cameron himself who is trying to get out of the EU's human rights framework.

I may be wrong, but I read GP as being a citizen of some other EU country wanting rid of the UK. And I can hardly blame them, even as a UK citizen. Our government shows an utter disdain for Europe, mostly so that they can use it as yet another bogeyman to distract people from everything they're doing.

Oh, indeed, this makes sense. Well, if that makes you feel better, most EU countries seem to be on the same nefarious track when it comes to global surveillance, and I don't see this kind of cooperation change in the future, whether or not there is a Brexit.

That's not a solution, it just moves the problem along.

Actually, if you define the solution narrowly as "undesirables on my doorstep" I suppose it is a solution; but since the wider problem is resolved by reducing the pool of undesirables for any doorsteps, only in the very narrowest sense.

The EU is the only thing stopping the UK surveillance state becoming even worse.

We are indeed a rotten place but its not because of CCTV and surveillance. This is just a symptom of deeper problems in society.

The distinction is certainly not meaningless, because they can't be used for surveillance - the footage of private cameras is only useful after the fact.

How secure are private cameras? I assume that many are IP enabled these days. And I assume that they have default passwords...

Answer. Totally insecure. If GCHQ wanted to they could grab vast amounts of extra video feed.

They could? More like they are.

Surely someone would notice the network traffic if they were (like the bill payers - small businesses tend to be on top of their bills).

Totally irrelevant. Most of the 'private' CCTV cameras are in fact hooked into the monitoring infrastructure of 2 or 3 big security companies, making access much easier for the government.

While this is true, I think there are arguments for and against your statement. While some areas of the UK are unquestionably far more monitored than their US counterparts, geographical size definitely comes into play. It's easier to monitor the UK because it is a tiny fraction of the size of the US and, therefore, will cost a fraction of the price. Our police also aren't quite as heavily militarized as the US (Thanks to US Military selling surplus to PDs for steep discounts and weird gun laws), we just have two huge water cannons on standby, I predict them being authorized in the next year or two though. Maybe it's just misplaced nationalism and my consumption of fairly left-leaning media that leaves me with the impression that the US is #1 for that stuff, I dunno. I think we're pretty evenly pegged on the totalitarian state front.

I agree that the size plays a big role. But then again not even in the big cities in the US can you find as many CCTVs as in the UK.

>not even in the big cities in the US can you find as many CCTVs as in the UK.

Do you have evidence for this? I find it hard to believe that branches of Walmart in the US don't have CCTV cameras in them.

Yes - UK is a turnkey fascist wet dream waiting for the right psycho.

I think you'll find that psycho's name is Theresa May.

I don't know how many public surveillance cameras we have in America.

I am an American, and never thought there would be so many cameras.

I'm not offended when someone comments on our use of surveillance! I am offended when Americans don't seem concerned over the proliferation of cameras everywhere?

The UK seems to have a lot of visable cams. At least they can point out most of the cams?

Why do I have a sneaky suspicion the United States has more surveillance cameras than the UK, but they are hidden in very sneaky ways?

Yup. According to Snowden, the GCHQ is worse than the NSA.


It is sad that the country of John Locke, the Father of Classical Liberalism, is fast becoming the realization of the nightmare that was "1984".

I agree, and most of the public don't even care.

Do not forget the Netherlands, phone tapping world champion.

Pretty sure they're sat in their underground bunkers, reptilian fingers steepled, chuckling loudly at the game of "my country's less fascistic than yours" that we find ourselves playing.

The UK is actually much less progressive than the US when it comes to censorship and filtering. There is no Internet filtering of any kind by any ISP in the US; it's illegal for a common carrier to filter traffic in that way. Some lobbyists are pushing ISPs to block access to sites that allow copyright infringement, but nothing of that nature has started yet.

The UK is very arguably also less progressive in terms of surveillance and espionage; GCHQ seems to be even more unethical than NSA, going by a few dozen of the leaked presentations.

"progressive" is very much the wrong term to use here. Many of the worst measures have been pushed by parties that position themselves as "conservatives".

No filtering by ISP, though there has been plenty of legislation with an attempt to set this up. The filtering happens at the content provider level - Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Mass surveillance is about terrorism.

It's just not only about terrorism, or mostly about terrorism.

When terrorism is invoked what the public is left with is, 'oh it's used for that so that's what it's intended for'.

Surveillance is about power, plain and simple. Surveillance is information and this is the information age. Information is a weapon and it drives the world.

Intelligence on persons of interest, propaganda, censorship, 21st century census operations, information for guiding policy, protest and riot management, aid in background checks, information support for public affairs and diplomacy, detection of cyber attacks - all of these things are enabled by massive data collection and analysis systems.

There are hints, from the Snowden docs especially, and from others, that these systems are used for these purposes.

So yeah, they are used for terrorism. In the US when the Attorney General did an investigation into why the brothers hadn't been caught by the FBI and National Counter Terrorism Center, it did just that. The report named the NSA two times - ones in the opening paragraph and once in the appendix. FBI use NSA intelligence to support investigations, but the NSA is not in charge of counter-terrorism. Other agencies have asks of the NSA and yes - I think it was Drake, but maybe it was Binney? - whistleblowers have reported on these capabilities being used to do background checks (in this case on Obama before he ran for President); they've been used against journalism outfits (the Associated Press); they've been used in cyberwar; they've been used for corporate espionage; their fusion centers have been used to target political parties (Tea Party) and protests (Occupy); the UK used them for propaganda in the Falkin Islands.

Dragnet surveillance is not about terrorism. Or rather, it is not, has never been, and will never be merely about terrorism.

People in the UK not infrequently face criminal sanction for things as petty as rude or obnoxious tweets, so I'd argue that the situation is actually quite a bit worse than in America.

People travelling to the US have been turned away at the border for humorous tweets... so I'd argue the situation is equally bad there. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16810312

People in the UK do jail time for offensive tweets, that is quite a bit different.

Yeah, we seem to prefer the "freedom of speech is a responsibility not a right" angle. Personally, I agree.

> I don't want my country to become America 2.0 (It's already starting to look like that with water cannons on standby, internet filtering and now this).

It already is America 2.0 with all the cameras and transport surveillance the FBI wished they had. ;)

"You can't defend such dragnet surveillance techniques as 'terrorist prevention'. How can I make a difference?"

I'm beginning to think the police in the UK have lost all interest in normal law enforcement - maybe it's just too much hard work?

On the contrary, they've got too good at it. Crime rates are through the floor. A lot of the time the police have nothing to do.

Idle hands and all that...

This is very true. Pretty soon nobody will bother reporting any crime at all and then they'll be able to concentrate 100% of their efforts on preventing terrorism.

Nope, backwards. People are reporting more nonsense even as crime goes down, which is probably part of why the police are pursuing nonsense.

The police are facing and have experienced funding cuts. I wonder if CCTV is a more efficient approach than PCSOs.

Getting out on the street by foot would seem to be a good way of deterring and clearing up a lot of petty crime and anti-social behaviour?

It would save a fortune on transport costs too.

PCSOs are just pointless.

Please, please can we stop with the attitude that PCSOs are pointless. They certainly are not. To deter low level crime - the only type of crime "foot patrol" prevents - a PCSO is far, far better value for money than a PC.

We are losing any ability to conduct neighbourhood policing, and that's entirely because the public fetishises police officer numbers, so we fire a bunch of far cheaper, more competent and specialized police staff.

A lot of crime prevention and fighting is walking through areas, talking to people and giving out leaflets. You really want PCs doing that and being paid for it?

"A lot of crime prevention and fighting is walking through areas, talking to people and giving out leaflets. You really want PCs doing that and being paid for it?"

Yes I do.

I get the impression that a lot of petty crime happens because the perpetrators know there is a negligible chance of being caught in the act.

Having police officers 'walking about' may be seen as a waste of resources by senior police officers looking to make easy cost savings. I don't think most law abiding people would agree?

I am wrong to say PCSOs are 'useless'. They are a better than nothing solution, maybe?

I think PCSOs do deter from petty crime when patrolling, especially teenagers in deprived areas.

It's become so ridiculous that I'm really, seriously considering wether having a mobile phone on me for my convenience is worth the constant surveillance.

Better cover your face as well. There are 11 cameras within 50m of my house in London.

Hahahaha. That's such a good film and a good reference too.

Then you go home, open you laptop and communicate with people over the internet. What's the difference.

In addition to other responses (particularly location data): VPN or Tor usage from a desktop is, for now at least, more viable from desktop than mobile.

Desktops can also have camera(s) and / or mics disable more readily than phones.

If the phone is powered on it allows for (potential) pervasive location tracking. Your communications can be listened to whether mobile or a home computer, but all that using your home computer reveals (by using it, not the contents) is that you're home. Using your mobile reveals that you're at Starbucks or on I-40 stuck in traffic, or that you're frequently connected to the same tower as some other persons of interest. And that's what can be known before observing the actual contents of the communication.

Your phone knows your location.

Your phone is your location.

Water cannons are actually fairly uncommon in the US; the preferred water-based crowd deterrent is the fire hose.

The UK has always been much worse than the US in that regard.

Often you'll see the US only adopt such measures after a "trial run" in the UK.

In terms of making a difference, I think we face the "tyranny of the majority". Whilst a lot of "us" feel strongly about where this is all going, it seems like the average Joe just hears from the media: "Its to protect you from XYZ threat of the month". Annoys me greatly.

> You can't defend such dragnet surveillance techniques as 'terrorist prevention'.

Of course they can. They'll never be made to tell us who they were targeting or what they collected and I'm sure if they need to make a statement the government will lend them a counter terrorism team to stand with for the cameras. It's the easy thing to do, I doubt they'll do anything else if push comes to shove (unless Theresa May needs another anti-extremism news story I guess).

I think you were getting at the fact it's a ridiculous response to the supposed threat - I agree, but unfortunately at this point I don't think there's much the government won't do if they can call it terrorist prevention.

> Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told Sky News: "We're not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing."

Apply the same logic to the justice system and courts would operate behind closed doors.

The public needs to know because it is the public who is supposed to oversee the authorities via the polling booth. The public should be able to assess whether the supposed benefits of this practice are valid and decide whether they want their privacy violated in order to get these benefits.

>Apply the same logic to the justice system and courts would operate behind closed doors.

That has already happened: http://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/jun/14/what-are-secret-c...

Yup. They quashed all powerful opposition to this pretty brutally. Ended a close family friend's career as a high court judge and suicided his wife, as he vehemently opposed this. You'll know him as a pedophilia apologist from the press. Court transcripts tell a very different story.

Dark times.

Most of the press play a big part in supporting this kind of nastiness, sadly.

And it comes from the highest possible levels - or at least so it appears - the BBC and many other outlets carried a video-bite of David Cameron condemning the poor man.

Is this why mobile phone data access is so shit in london?

If they instead provided better data access, 99% of London commuters would happily sign on to full surveillance and agree to hand over their first born.

Upvote for funny.

Its pretty ok on O2 4G for me. Everything else seems congested.

Same experience, on 3G with Three it's shody at best, but with EE 4G I get 30 to 40Mbps

We have noticed a very striking degradation in performance of all our 3G connections (multiple work and personal ones, on multiple mobile networks) in recent years, with a particularly obvious drop around the time 4G became a big deal. It could just be coincidental of course, because obviously in terms of radio signals they shouldn't interfere. However, our more cynical parts can't help wondering whether resources previously used to support 3G networks are being redirected over time towards the new and more profitable 4G services, leaving those still using the same 3G at the same price with fewer stations to connect with, less regular maintenance, etc.

I noticed something similar, but note OFCOM is allowing operators to use any part of their allocations for 4G services. I'm wondering if they're reusing some of their 2G and 3G bandwidth for 4G services.

The standard PR seems to be that network operators claim they aren't doing this and continue to develop their 2G and 3G capacity in parallel, with any degradations in performance being due to supporting increased loads and therefore contention on those 2G and 3G networks.

Meanwhile, just about everybody who actually uses mobile networks seems to tell roughly the same story that I did before, and there seem to have been occasional more rigorous/scientific surveys that showed a definite, measurable drop in service quality on 2G and 3G over the relevant time period.

How is that bad, and how is 4G more profitable ?

At least on Three, it doesn't come at extra cost to the customer, and I'm more than happy for capacity to be repurposed towards it.

How is that bad

How is it bad that people are paying for services on multi-year contracts and the quality has dropped in the middle of that period to a level where it is literally unusable in many cases? I'd say it's "complete failure to provide the fundamental part of the contracted services" bad.

how is 4G more profitable ?

Aside from everyone having to buy an entire new generation of devices to use it?

As for plan pricing, I can't tell you, because the sites of several of the mobile operators are now so bad that I literally can't find any information about pricing on them after the five minutes I've just spent looking.

I'm more than happy for capacity to be repurposed towards it.

Well, I'm happy that you're happy, but that repurposing still screws everyone who doesn't have the option to switch over right now so they get a worse service than before even though they're still paying for it and (short of actual legal action) probably still locked into their contracts.

It's almost guaranteed that whenever something privacy-invading gets uncovered in the US, it shortly is found in the UK too.

If I didn't know better, I'd think the UK government have an 'anything you can do, we can do better' attitude about their orwellian antics.

Actually most of it is talk, then a hastily pushed through bill, then a technological measure, then a pile of consultancy, then a pile of tendering, then armies of consultants filing expenses for 5 years, then a royal fuck up due to nothing been delivered, then some resignations and reassignments, then a sudden declaration of success based on something purely coincidental that looked like the first grand idea was the answer.

That is literally every government project here in the UK.

How about I have something on my phone that verifies I'm connected to an authentic provider tower, and not connect to anything else.

Another thing to think about, if it's happening in the UK, it's probably happening in your own country too.

If the Stingray units are only $1000, and if the manufacturing company is prepared to keep purchases confidential as suggested by the OA, I'd imagine these units are being bought by a variety of agencies in many countries.

I'm wondering what they gather: I'm guessing that if I were to walk past one, it would be able to log a unique identifier in my phone. Then I presume it could log future visits to the area. Is this all it is? Same effect as having a CID officer in an unmarked car with a flask and an empty 2.5 litre coke bottle?

Is this all it is? Same effect as having a CID officer in an unmarked car with a flask and an empty 2.5 litre coke bottle?

There is not much to be learned about pervasive, 24/7 dragnet surveillance from comparing it to one officer in one location. They are completely different concepts with different consequences. An officer can track a few people for a short time. Stingrays and the like can build an ongoing narrative about everyone who passes them, criminal or innocent.

Over time yes, I agree.

Factual question: What can Stingray collect? Is it 'device number NNN was in my capture range at 095627 on June 11th 2015' and then the local police have to analyse the data over time? Or can they get more precise location information by triangulating with several Stingrays?

Factual Answer: Logging of IMSI (sim card ID) and IMEI (phone ID). Potentially also logging pTMSI (temporary IMSI used over the air), MSISDN (phone number).

You should be able to get good idea of the handsets distance from the station based on timing delay.

As it's acting as a full fake site it could potentially be used to deny service, drain the battery, MiTM outgoing SMS & phone calls, possibly use the E911 provision to request GPS location from the handset too...

Thanks - factual is fine

So My Friends in the Met could have a few of these things at sensitive points, and sit there and collect data along the lines of name (via phone number), time, date, location, device ID. Running this for some weeks would allow them to build up a list of people traversing a certain route daily.

Phone/sms could they decrypt the phone calls with the device ID? Seems a lot of data to collect given the number of people passing through many locations in central London.

After the Snowden leaks, none of this should be surprising. Still makes me cringe though, just to have it confirmed.

Last I heard, the Harris Stingrays were licensed for "emergency use only" in the US. So how are these things licensed in the UK?

Emergancy use in the US (I'm not sure if this has changed) has in practice meant very liberal use and sometimes statewide blanket coverage (e.g. Florida).

Are there any ways to ensure your phone is not interacting with a Stingray device?

It was not long ago that the FBI was revealed to be using them from light aircraft routinely:


Why they use such tools? In Turkey police can listen any phone from the police station. Because all telecommunication companies are required to give access to their network and even if you are the owner of the telecommunication company you cannot know when is your custemers being listened.

Cell site simulators can be used for location tracking even when a device is isn't actively communicating at the application layer. (However, the carriers may already know that information as well, and might be required to turn it over to police too.)

Edit: also, you can use a cell site simulator without telling anyone who you are, whom you're interested in, or what legal authority (if any) you claim to have to monitor them.

Yes, cell towers log all connections (I don't mean phone calls or SMS). And we see news like "the criminals telephone was in this area two months ago", "these people were here according the cell towers". I'm talking about Turkey again. Of course the police needs warrant to get these kind of logs. Even the web sites need to log what IP was connected to them, which is pretty lame.

In the U.S. these things are kept incredibly secret (even through strenuous efforts to keep the details out of court testimony) and it takes many years to learn more about them.

Because you need a court order to get that information in many countries. These devices allow police to bypass the courts oversight.

Oh, I see now.

Don't miss the "All the data captured by the investigation has been put in a Google document" link that points to a 50mb file called "Complete BB firewall logs.rtf," which I'm sure will be of interest.

Have you had a look at it? There's no location information that I can see so the usefulness is somewhat limited. There are 160 lines with "Suspicion: LOW" or higher, but I'm really not sure what I'm looking at.

If someone with a bit more domain expertise could point out the smoking gun here, it could be very interesting.

IMSI catchers are transceivers. They are not hard to find, they are easily triangulated: they literally broadcast their location. Honestly, denying their usage is remarkably pointless.

If you want a location, then I suggest: grab a spectrum analyser; head to Knightsbridge; tell me what happens when you get close to Hans Crescent; then look on the corner and guess why.

And, don't take your phone. Obviously.

I'm curious, but not in London. All I could see on Google Street View, which is likely old, is a standard cell site on the A4 in that area.


Would you happen to have a picture of the install they have in that area?

I believe he's referring to the Ecuadorian Embassy located on that street, where Mr Assange is located presently. There are obvious reasons (WikiLeaks) for keeping track surreptitiously of those visiting him.

I wasn't trying to deny their usage, in fact I have no problem believing these things are out there. I'm just trying to understand the data log that was posted.

I work for a company with a huge dataset of cell tower observations, and so I was interested in locations that I could investigate. I'll try your suggestion and see if I can find anything suspicious.

How would I go about building an IMSI catcher? Preferably supporting LTE.

I tested it out with OpenBTS and a USRP1; that configuration definitely works. Also needed a high-precision clock board (ClockTamer). I ran with 2G only.

For 3G/4G/LTE there's network authentication, so "in theory" you can't do it...

I've read a bunch of stuff which says you're supposed to be able to jam or disrupt non-2G frequencies to force a fallback to 2G... however, I'd expect a telco van to turn up if you tried this for more than a short period of time (the ranges you'd want to jam are massive) and I didn't try it for obvious reasons.

BUT - what I found in practice (2011, field testing on an island near Auckland NZ) was that a surprising amount of stuff would just straight up camp to a 2G base station, presumably because the signal was stronger. You don't need LTE if the phone is happy to look for the best signal. I didn't analyse what models of phone did this, it seemed like everything did at the time.

A more interesting approach which I haven't tried involves downloading a several GB of rainbow tables and cracking TMSIs with kraken; no idea how well that works in practice.

Here is an open-source one as reference: https://f-droid.org/repository/browse/?fdfilter=imsi&fdid=co...

Let's talk about the real travesty here: making the data available ... in RTF format -__-

i am shocked, shocked i tell you

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