Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/19/sitefinder_made_public/

Information Commissioner rules Ofcom must share data

Cell site locations not a matter of national security

By Bill Ray

Posted in Mobile, 19th September 2006 15:14 GMT

Comms regulator Ofcom is squaring up against fellow regulatocrats at the Information Commissioner's Office over just how much Britons should be allowed to know about their local cell phone base stations.

Sitefinder is a utility which enables concerned British locals to find out what cell phone base stations are nearby, and which companies run them as well as their frequencies and maximum output.

Anyone is welcome to come along and have a peek to see where cells are located, but if you wanted a list of all the cells with their longitude and latitude, perhaps for your latest Google Earth mashup, then you would have been out of luck.

Ofcom, which holds the data, felt there were national security implications, as well as public safety and intellectual property rights issues, in providing a searchable database of locations and capabilities.

It is imaginable that a terrorist might target a cellular base station, though the impact would be unlikely to justify the risk, but the impacts on public safety and intellectual properly rights are harder to fathom.

So, quite reasonably, the Information Commissioner has ruled that as the information is already freely available such arguments are – to coin a phrase - baseless.

Ofcom has 35 days to appeal, though it is hard to see where they would find grounds.®