Dealing with cops requesting punters' whereabouts
Path Intelligence altered the way it stores the data it collects after a suggestion by privacy groups, Biggar said.
"Mobile networks must know where each phone is and who that phone belongs to. They can associate the number that they broadcast with an individual. Privacy groups were concerned that the police may request our data and then match it back with the mobile network information. The groups suggested changing the identification of the dots we collect when we store the information on our database. They were concerned that police or other law enforcement bodies would contact us to obtain the raw information and link it to other identifiable data," she said.
"Any signal from the phone or the network will be picked up on multiple receivers of ours and then we triangulate between our own devices. As soon as our system detects the number it changes it. We cannot tell you what the original number is. It is not important to us," Biggar said.
Biggar also said that the data collected is aggregated and that movement of device data is not individually monitored. She said the technology had been used to inform stadium operators about the movement of music fans in entering and exiting concerts and helped quantify the number of refugees in refugee camps in order to deliver adequate provisions of medical supplies.
Biggar rejected claims that the FootPath system breaches the UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). Under RIPA the interception of communications is unlawful other than in select circumstances. Biggar said that the signals the company detect are broadcast 'in the clear' prior to the point they are encrypted and are therefore not intercepted.
"The signal we detect is broadcast by the phones and network as opposed to intercepted. The signal can be picked up on multiple devices. For example, your landline phone detects the signal and makes beeps when a phone is next to it," Biggar said.
RIPA permits law enforcement agencies, such as the police and MI5, to tap into phone, internet or email use to protect the UK's national security interests, prevent and detect terrorism and serious crime or to safeguard the UK's economic well-being, subject to approval by the Home Secretary.
Telecoms firms are also allowed to unintentionally intercept communications in line with RIPA if the interception "takes place for purposes connected with the provision or operation of that service or with the enforcement, in relation to that service, of any enactment relating to the use of postal services or telecommunications services".
Copyright © 2012, OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
"If you are wandering about in public, people can see you. If they want to track you, they can."
The problem is one of scale, tracking people used to be expensive, and therefore only done with people who were already of interest.
These days, it's become so cheap that people are collecting the information without even having any idea what they want to do with later.
I'm not just talking about Footpath here; ANPR, Face Recognition from CCTV, everything you've ever brought from any of the big supermarkets and the credit card companies. The information is being collected and it's never going to go away.
The old system was effectively anonymity via being lost in the crowd, it was under that environment that the laws regarding privacy were created and evolved but technology has changed that environment and the law hasn't kept pace.
@SpiracleWhy should I have to be inconvenienced by having to switch off a service I pay for in order to stop freeloading creepy tracking marketdroids?
So why be coy about it?
If it's all so harmless and inoffensive why do these companies not announce what they're doing loudly and clearly?
Most people's reaction is to assume that these organisations are up to something *because* of the covert way that this is being done. I don't actually object to data mining where I can make a reasoned judgement about participation (or receive an incentive for taking part).
Perhaps the next teenage craze will be to walk around shopping centres in circles to ruin the collected data?