Is the police tracking your movements using your mobile phone?

Police are being challenged by the use of a controversial spy technology that could allow them to track every movement through their smartphone. The hardware is known as a receiver known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) (file photo)

Police forces are being challenged by concerns that they are using a controversial spy technology capable of tracking every move through a smartphone.

The rights charity is bringing to court five British policemen for not having confirmed or denied using the hardware, which imitates the mobile phone towers to silently connect with nearby mobile phones and spy on their movements.

These can also be used to intercept text messages and calls without the knowledge of the owner of the mobile phone.

Cellxion, Surrey's telecommunications firm behind technology, says the system helps the police fight the growing use of mobile phones by criminals and terrorists.

But privacy experts warn that technology is abundant & # 39; because it gathers data & indiscriminately & # 39; of nearby cellular devices without their consent.

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Police are being challenged by the use of a controversial spy technology that could allow them to track every movement through their smartphone. The hardware is known as a receiver known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) (file photo)

Police are being challenged by the use of a controversial spy technology that could allow them to track every movement through their smartphone. The hardware is known as a receiver known as International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) (file photo)

Known as an international mobile subscriber identity receiver (IMSI), the hardware tricks mobile phones into an area of ​​several miles to connect with it.

Once this connection has been made, IMSI can be used to identify the location of a smartphone and intercept text messages and calls without the knowledge of its user.

The British police was discovered using the technology in 2016 after a Freedom of Information Request (FoI) discovered that the acronym CCDC present in several accounts of the forces meant "Covert Communications Data Capture", another term for IMSI.

It is known that at least five forces used the equipment, and the Metropolitan Police of London spent more than £ 1 million ($ 1.3 million) on IMSI in 2015.

However, groups seeking more details on how the kits are implemented have been told that officials can not confirm or deny that they have information.

The privacy rights group Privacy International filed an appeal against the silence of the police forces about their purchase and use of the technology.

Rights groups are bringing to court five UK policemen for not denying that they use hardware, which imitates mobile phone towers to connect with devices, to spy on British citizens (stock image)

Rights groups are bringing to court five UK policemen for not denying that they use hardware, which imitates mobile phone towers to connect with devices, to spy on British citizens (stock image)

Rights groups are bringing to court five UK policemen for not denying that they use hardware, which imitates mobile phone towers to connect with devices, to spy on British citizens (stock image)

The legal action will challenge a decision of the Office of the Information Commissioner that allows forces to reject Freedom of Information requests regarding IMSI.

Privacy International argues that the ruling, which allowed the forces to power "neither confirm nor deny" who had information, essentially eliminates the meaning of the Freedom of Information Act.

Scarlet Kim, legal officer of Privacy International, said the police had relied on the "reflex" does not confirm or deny the "reaction" to the requests for too long.

"This secret is even more disturbing given the indiscriminate manner in which IMSI receivers operate," said Ms. Kim.

"These tools are particularly conducive to abuse when used at public meetings, such as protests, where the government can easily collect data on all attendees."

WHAT ARE THE IMSI PLACEMATORS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) recipients trick cell phones into giving up their data.

The hardware mimics the signals emitted by a mobile signal tower to trick smartphones into connecting with it.

Once activated, it captures all smartphones within an area of ​​several miles.

The technology collects the gadget for location data and can intercept text messages and calls without the user knowing.

In 2015, it was revealed that at least five UK police forces had invested in a version of the surveillance equipment built by the Surreyion Surrey telecommunications firm.

Cellxion says that IMSI receivers help the police fight the growing use of mobile phones by criminals and terrorists.

But privacy experts warn that technology is abundant for abuse & # 39; since it gathers data & indiscriminately & # 39; and without consent.

He stressed that the refusal of the police forces continued even when information about the devices was filtered through the media.

Purchase records revealed that in addition to the Met's £ 1 million investment, the Avon and Somerset police spent £ 169,575 ($ 220,000) on technology in 2015.

The South Yorkshire police paid Cellxion £ 144,000 ($ 57,000) in the same period.

The telecommunications company has previously touted the IMSI hardware as a "comprehensive set of tools to combat the growing use of mobile phone communications technology in crime and terrorism."

The Council of Chiefs of the National Police did not respond immediately to a request for comments.

Megan Goulding, a lawyer with the Liberty legal group, representing Privacy International in the new case, said it was & # 39; vital & # 39; so that the public has access to information about police surveillance tools.

"We hope that the Court recognizes the threat to our rights and encourages a more diligent approach on the part of the Office of the Information Commissioner," he said.

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