Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Deputy Prime Minister written answer on mobiles

Spy Blog has spotted a serious, if amusing, mistake in the written answer of the Deputy Prime Minister's department to a question on mobile phone location data. The question and answer were as follows:

"Bob Spink (Castle Point, Con): To ask the Deputy Prime Minister how many instances have been recorded of the fire service using mobile phone location data to effect a rescue operation. [43784]

Jim Fitzpatrick (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (London), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) The information requested is not held centrally. The fire and rescue service is not responsible for tracking criminals"

Now Mr Prescott's office is responsible for the planning policies that influence the siting of mobile phone masts, so it is more than a little disconcerting to see this kind of response in a written answer. Spyblog is a bit more blunt:

"It is the physical locations of these masts, which are used by third party companies to offer Mobile Phone Location Based Services to consumers (which have their own potential privacy and security problems) and which can also be used to provide the approximate locations of 999 / 112 mobile phone calls to the Emergency services.

If the primary use of Location Based Services, so far as the ODPM is concerned, is for for the electronic tagging of criminals or the tracking of criminals via their mobile phones, what chance is there that they will not see the forthcoming eCall the pan-European in-vehicle emergency call system which is due to be fitted to all new vehicles in the European Union from 2009, as just another way of keeping the UK public under control?"

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