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Drugs, phonecams, privacy and GPS tracking

It's all go in the post bag

Letters Police in London want your mobile phone snaps and video footage, and the government wants all your emails and phone records. Following the rather unpleasant events of last week, the authorities are calling on ISPs to co-operate with efforts to gather mobile phone and email traffic data, sparking speculation that the EU's data retention plans could be given a new lease of life. Isn't it fun to be in demand?

The length of time on this is a smoke screen. At best it is a time for the Government to get around and hoover up all the data. Once the government has the data do you think it will delete it after 12 months.

Once gathered it will be eternally stored in Cheltenham.


What happens when a terrorist accidentally phones the wrong number or misstype a URL. Do we get the 6.00am constabulary calling through the windows?

Simon [But not the same one as the one above - ed]

"In a memo circulated to ISPs last Thursday the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) called on ISPs to "preserve" where "reasonably practicable" communications data and content from electronic communications so that it can be used if necessary as part of the investigation into last week's murderous events."

That's strange. On GMTV yesterday (Monday) morning a Home Office spokeswoman specifically ruled out the possibility of asking ISPs to retain the content of emails.


I hate the ID card proposals with a passion, but I don't have much of a problem with retention of email/SMS/phone data. The problem comes about with who has access to what. For example, if the police (with reasonable suspicion) ask for records about Mr. Bloggs' calls etc. then that would be OK: it's evidence gathering as happens already. If they asked for details on everyone to be handed over on one big fat disk to be perused at leisure (looking for dirt on ambassadors to Uzbekistan, that kind of thing) then it would not be OK. I don't know what kind of indexing and search they anticipate.

I suppose a lot of this hangs on the kind of searches permitted, and what indexes are assumed. Indexing from phone number or customer name is one thing. Can the police ask for more general data, such as a list of all the calls made from a particular cell? A list of all the calls made in London in a certain month?

I predict that after lots of noise and bluster these retention laws will be passed. And I predict terrorists will switch to Hotmail and Skype.


Also on the front page this week was a suggestion that someday, everything will be RFID tagged . At least, an ex-spook and some researchers from SAP are embarking on research into how this could be done. Surprising that none of you took comfort from this thought:

If the technology is widely deployed then the 'bad guys' will get hold of readers and either modify, exchange, remove or destroy the chips so that it will only be the general public and incompetent criminal who are watched.


Brilliant. So with this, not only is my picture on CCTV, but the computer can determine my appearance and categorise it as a suit, casual clothing, shoes that cost £xx, 1 year old t-shirt (quick, sell him a new one!).

If say a particular shoeprint is left at the scene of a crime, how long before a screen lights up showing the real-time location of all matching shoes within a 10 mile radius and all the wearers hauled in for questioning?

Its also worth noting that with this form of business data intelligence, unlike storecards/market research, there would appear to be no way to opt out. As always, its all about the ££, and bollocks to anything else.


How about RFID spoofing - if an RFID responds it can be spoofed! End of security. RFIDs can also be burned out, ditto... Can you also explain why Industry has a say in policy development. In a democracy surely you shouldn't be able to buy influence ... sorry my mistake ....


Excellent - where can I buy a kit containing an RFID reader and a large hammer?


Using a handsfree kit in your car is no safer than not using a handsfree kit, according to data collected from crashes in Australia. You weren't especially impressed with the conclusions drawn from the data collected:

- New report suggests that hands free kits in cars could reduce number of traffic accidents -

A new report that I have just made up suggests that by enabling lone drivers to safely hold conversations, rather than being lulled to sleep by the engine's drone, handsfree telephone kits could be saving lives. In addition, the reduced use of handheld mobiles, which a handsfree kit enables, could further reduce the risk of death and injury on the roads.

The report's author, myself, went on to explain that it didn't really matter whether my conclusions were either logical or borne out by evidence. "The important thing is to get my name in the press", I said, "since there's really easy money to be made pitching oneself as an expert in these sorts of areas."


Interesting though the research on driver impairment due to carrying out a mobile conversation is just paraphrasing the research sufficient work to generate an article?

It is patently obvious that doing anything other than concentrating on the driving is going to increase the risk of an accident. However, with the exception of racing drivers, we do it all the time. People converse with passengers, they listen to the radio, they think of other things. It is all about acceptable risk.


In answer to your opening question: yes. It is called reporting the news.

We also reported that the people arrested as part of an investigation into online drugs suppliers are to be sentenced later this month. A man who ran a similar operation was sentenced to 410 years back in May after one of his customers died of an overdose:

I'd just like to add my feelings to this retarded situation. This is the one of the most bullshit charges ever dreamed up against anyone, and I shall explain why!

1. The chemicals were offered as research chemicals, untested and not for human consumption

2. You cannot sue the manufacturer if you overdose on a drug when you have adhered to all warnings etc (Which basically were, 'do not take this drug')

3. The drugs weren't specifically illegal and were only made illegal under the extremely flexible 'analog act' which says that 'anything that acts like a prohibited drug is also prohibited', it's the effect they ban, not the drug

4. People buying this drug have broken no law (perhaps they have in the UK?), they have harmed nobody but themselves and I just cannot see what the justification for arrests or imprisonments is.

If I started a website selling gravel, would I be put in jail for life if someone buried themselves in it and died? No, neither should any of these people.

It's a horrible situation we're in where the government (well the US government at least) has an act that says 'Anything that screws you up a bit like alcohol does but is not alcohol is ILLEGAL BECAUSE IT IS BAD'

I hate this planet.


A much quoted article from volume 284 of the JAMA attributed 106,000 deaths a year to "non error adverse events of medications". At 410 years per death that would make the pharmaceutical industry liable for over 43 million years of chokey in the US alone.


If the idea of all our clothes being RFID tagged if not enough, the British government (in its infinite wisdom) wants to track us by satellite in our cars, as part of an utterly ludicrous scheme to stop us speeding:

Interesting article on modified Skodas and the GPS speed-control system. But has anyone thought of the effect on the national psychology of reducing all cars to the same speed on Britain's roads (and it will be pretty much all motorised vehicles except fossilised caravan-towers and the odd traction engine)? A nation of people, each one dwarfed, turned into a tiny, insignificant cog in the huge machine that is a modern globalised society, has one of its few remaining avenues of individual expression (relative speed) taken away from it in one fell swoop.

What will there be left in terms of individual expression? We'll be like the people in the video for the Gary Numan song, "Cars". Our individuality is suppressed, under attack from every direction. This move will just add to the pressure, and our collective psyche will reach boiling point. This will, in my opinion, manifest itself in increased levels of violent behaviour such as road rage, high street brawls on a Friday night, domestic abuse, in addition to existentialist depression and ill health caused by our realising how futile life is, and how impossible it is to live it with any kind of flair! 1,000 people's lives may be saved on the roads, but this will cause at least double that number of extra deaths every year through plain despair alone....

We need an outlet, and this move can only serve to take one of our last remaining ones away and turn us into automatons. If we all have to drive Skodas then it'll just be so much the worse. I personally have had enough. It's either Harikiri or walking naked from one end of Europe to the other for me - it's the only thing left that'll make me different.



We fear you may rely a little to heavily on your car and its speed for your sense of identity...

I see several flaws in this technology. Firstly, let's hope that it won't be Microsoft writing the software...I can see the headlines now: "Virus causes GPS enabled car to swerve off road killing all occupants".

Seriously, how will software problems be handled? If the software stops responding or the signal to the satellite lost will the car just turn off stranding the driver? Will the car start if the software doesn't work?

Secondly, if proprietary technology is used will it add to the cost of the vehicle? Will consumers be forced to pay a licensing fee every year?

Thirdly, this is a simple invasion of privacy masquerading as a safety tool. Who will have access to the data? Will it be compiled and a profile created of every driver? Will that information be sold to advertisers? How will the data be stored? For how long? What safeguards will be in place?

I fail to see how knowing where someone is on the road and how fast they are travelling will save anyone. What if the GPS car is forced to slow down; but the others around it don't? How safe is that? I can only hope that the British people have more common sense than their government and put the kibosh to this foolish idea.

Cheers, Robert

It's bad enough with speed cameras sited in very obviously non-dangerous locations just in order to make money, without the prospect of speed limiters controlled by government. It's a Stalinist nanny state gone mad.

The oppressive nature of this is going to be very difficult for the vast majority of motorist to bear and I'm sure they would vote out any government that implemented such a Draconian measure. Can you imagine being limited to a slow speed that has been chosen maliciously by a non-elected local bureaucrat for a road that is otherwise perfectly safe to drive at a higher speed.

A driver will always need to be able to take a balanced view of the risks of driving at a speed appropriate for the road and road conditions, versus a speed limit that has been set and the risks associated with being charged with speeding.

In France, the speed limit for many roads is lower in bad weather and the police are then very zealous, but in good weather the police take a blind eye to motorists travelling at a faster but still safer speed, even though it's officially over the limit. And in the UK the unofficial speed limit on the motorways is around 87 mph.

If the speed limiter idea is implemented this unofficial leeway will restrict us all to driving only at 70 mph. Can you imagine the additional congestion that will cause?. Lastly, if the motorway tolls are too highly priced then the minor roads will be in gridlock all the time.

This will be New Labours last straw or their poll tax if this ever goes ahead!


Heh! Watch it, that's a damn fine car. My friend John has had one for years and they're bloody good!


We are sure he will thank you for publicising that fact...

More on Friday, including your views on Dell's customer support. ®

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