UK police has bought surveillance software to track online movements
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Deutsch: Britische Polizei schafft Software zur Überwachung des Onlineverkehrs...
Civil liberties groups have shown great concern about the UK Metropolitan police force's possible use of Geotime surveillance software that can map nearly every move in the digital world of "suspect" individuals.
The Geotime security programme, that has recently been purchased by Britain Metropolitan Police, is used by the US military and is able to show an individual's movements and communications with other people on a three-dimensional graphic. It can be used to put up information gathered from social networking sites, satellite navigation equipment, mobile phones, financial transactions and IP network logs, creating a 3D graphic of correlations between actions, people and places.
The use of such a tool is seen as a threat to personal privacy. Alex Hanff, the campaigns manager at Privacy International, showed concern that by the aggregation of "millions and millions of pieces of microdata, a very high-resolution picture of somebody" might be obtained. This could also be used by the government and police "for the benefit of commercial gain," and therefore, asked the UK police to explain who would decide how this software will be used in the future.
"This latest tool could also be used in a wholly invasive way and could fly in the face of the role of the police to facilitate rather than impede the activities of democratic protesters," said Sarah McSherry, a partner at Christian Khan Solicitors, representing several protesters in cases against the Metropolitan police.
Daniel Hamilton, director of the Big Brother Watch privacy blog, stated for ZDNet UK that "the ability to build up such a comprehensive record of any person's movements represents a significant threat to personal privacy."
According to Geotime's website, the programme displays data from various sources, allowing the user to navigate the data with a timeline and animated display and the links between entities "can represent communications, relationships, transactions, message logs etc and are visualised over time to reveal temporal patterns and behaviours."
The representatives of The Metropolitan police stated it was "in the process of evaluating the Geotime software to explore how it could possibly be used to assist us in understanding patterns in data relating to both space and time" and that it had not yet taken a final decision on whether the software would be adopted permanently.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Defence said the software was also under investigation by the ministry.
This comes at a time when data retention has become a main issue of discussion being increasingly challenged and criticised and as the UK already exercises a high level of surveillance of individuals' online activities.
According to the Guardian, Catt, an 86-year-old man without any criminal record, has recently been granted permission to sue a secretive police unit for having kept, on a clandestine database, a detailed record of his presence at more than 55 peace and human rights peaceful protests over a four-year period.
The respective unit has been compiling a huge, nationwide database of thousands of protesters for more than ten years already. The police claims the unit only monitors so-called "domestic extremists" (which in Catt's case is a very exaggerated statement) and that the "minor" surveillance of Catt was a "part of a far wider picture of information which it is necessary for the police to continue to monitor in order to plan to maintain the peace, minimise the risks of criminal offending and adequately to detect and prosecute offenders".
Police buy software to map suspects' digital movements (11.05.2011)
Metropolitan Police trials GeoTime tracking software (12.05.2011)
Privacy storm after police buy software that maps suspects' digital
Protester to sue police over secret surveillance (3.05.2011)