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UK's 4G Network Selling Subscriber Tracking Data To Police, Private Parties

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the what-have-you-been-up-to? dept.

United Kingdom 55

Sockatume writes "The Sunday Times has revealed that analytics firm Ipsos MORI and 4G network EE attempted to sell detailed information on 27m subscribers' activities to various parties including the UK's police forces. The data encompasses the gender, postcode and age of subscribers, the sites they visit and times they are visited, and the places and times of calls and text messages. Ipsos MORI were reportedly 'bragging that the data can be used to track people and their location in real time to within 100 meters' in negotiations. Ipsos MORI has rushed to contradict this in an effort to save face, stating that the users are anonymized and data is aggregated into groups of 50 or more, while location is only precise to 700m. Despite their prior enthusiasm, the police have indicated that they will no longer go ahead with the deal. It is not clear whether the other sales will go ahead."

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55 comments

Party! (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43708829)

Oh man, private parties! I'm never invited to those!

Re:Party! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43708887)

This would save the Chinese and Russian Embassy a lot of work. Get the PM's cabinet, wife friends and immediate family and let the fun begin . Blackmailing people in high positions, and throwing juries is now for sale.

Re:Party! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43708897)

A while back, I stuck my fetid cock into a Slashdotter's rancid rectum. The result? Cum farts, and a feces fiesta! I aim to recreate that glorious moment when the Slashdotter farted out my cum along with his feces; they were so perfectly mixed together. "But who will be the lucky feces cum farter?" you ask. Well, it'll be you! What say you?

Dyslexia (1)

wallyhall (665610) | about a year ago | (#43709767)

I read it as "pirate parties", I was thinking "what?!"

Re:Dyslexia (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#43711593)

Private pirate parties!

Re:Party! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43710997)

Excuse me, but AFAIK, this is illegal in the EU.
Selling private data like that is forbidden by the data protection laws. And I highly doubt their contracts contain something the judges will accept... if that is possible at all, which I doubt.

Why not? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43708857)

Why not put everybody in jail as precaution and allowed only for school, work and couple hours of social activities.
That way, it will be easier to know about everybody's where-about.

POLICE and politicians!
Think about it!

Re:Why not? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43708905)

I'm more worried that they're *paying* for it. With taxpayer money.

Who worked out that little deal?

Re:Why not? (3, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43708995)

I'm more worried that they're *paying* for it. With taxpayer money.

Who worked out that little deal?

yeah.. if they had a legal use case, they could just ask for the data.

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43709069)

I know this is the UK but I'm more concerned that if they can just buy the information they don't need a warrant anymore.

Re:Why not? (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#43709439)

Try reading your service agreement sometime...

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43709705)

Try reading your service agreement sometime...

Try reading European data privacy laws sometime ... they trump the service agreement.

Re: Why not? (4, Insightful)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about a year ago | (#43709755)

Try reading EU data protection laws sometime, we cant sign away our rights here.

Re: Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43710877)

Try reading TFA. Anonymised data isn't covered by the ECHR since it (supposedly) doesn't infringe on one's privacy.

Re: Why not? (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | about a year ago | (#43711029)

Try reading TFA. Anonymised data isn't covered by the ECHR since it (supposedly) doesn't infringe on one's privacy.

TFA is self contradictory. It says "The data that Ipsos MORI would be able to analyse includes individual user's location to the nearest 100 metres." Further down, Ipsos MORI claims that "Ipsos MORI only receives anonymised data without any personally identifiable information on an individual customer".

At most, one of those two statements is true. The article may be badly written (no surprises there), or Ipsos MORI may be less than truthful (no surprises there either). Go figure.

Re: Why not? (1)

stiggle (649614) | about a year ago | (#43718637)

While the data has been anonymised, studies have shown that identifying information can be obtained from it.
eg. If you know where I live and where I work - then you can search the data for those locations, you've got a pretty good chance of getting my phone from the dataset. Then with that, you can now see where else I've been with my phone switched on. If there are some suspicious locations then you pull up the phones that were also in that location, search for their 'common sites' and you have their home, work, bar locations.

Re:Why not? (1)

GigaBurglar (2465952) | about a year ago | (#43710579)

Try reading the EU Convention on Human Rights - a right to a private life.

Re:Why not? (2)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43709125)

That and I'm not overly convinced it's legal in itself to do it this way.

If they're genuinely conveying things like gender, postcode and age then that unambiguously falls under what is deemed personal data. To pass such personal data on is a very clear breach of the data protection act and even the police don't have immunity from the data protection act, only exemptions.

This implies that Ipsos Mori, EE, and the Police were conspiring to break the law in carrying out an illegal transfer of personal data.

The only way this could be legal is if each and every subscriber has explicitly opted in to allowing their data to be sold on to 3rd parties.

Still, I'm not surprised by Ipsos Mori at least, this is the same company that offers statistical polls to show whatever you pay them to show. Want your political party to look like it's more popular than it is in the opinion polls? Just pay us, and we'll engineer a poll to show exactly that!

It's always humorous around election time and so forth when you have a poll sponsored by a right wing paper showing the right wing party in the lead and a poll sponsored by a left wing paper showing the left wing party in the lead and then you notice they're both from the same pollster, like Ipsos Mori. Most statisticians learn to beware and try and mitigate selection bias when doing statistical studies, Ipsos Mori make a profit off of it.

Re:Why not? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year ago | (#43709945)

Which means that if you had any doubt that all you do with your smartphone is data for sale-- it is! And it's being sold to whomever, without anonymizing, I'll bet. Good to 700m. Yeah... right. Good to about 3m if you had your GPS on. Your applications are ratting you out, and the browser data is an open book on your life, and everything you've done with the phone.

Re:Why not? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#43710903)

which is why all my apps are blocked from location services, with 2 exceptions. Obviously, this has little impact on the phone service provider, since the very act of being connected will allow them to track you explicitly.

As for browser data, I don't do much browsing on my phone, the screen's too small for general browsing in comfort and it's missing a few features I use on my computers. If you were really paranoid, you could VPN all your connection info to your home system, unless, of course, you've bundled that with your provider, allowing them to still know exactly where you've gone and what you're doing.

Re:Why not? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year ago | (#43710981)

No. That's only a partial cure. Your services are known, your location is known (GPS enhanced). Who you called, when, etc etc. is still available.

Re:Why not? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about a year ago | (#43716191)

Your services are known only by what you use - VPN and tower connectivity. If you've jail-broken your phone, all your calls can be done via the VPN as well, although call quality will probably be unusable with today's networks. You don't have to transmit any GPS data, but your device's location can still be known, as long as you're connected to the network.

Re:Why not? (1)

Sir Holo (531007) | about a year ago | (#43711115)

Yep. Pretty much the same deal there here in the US (aside from our lack of privacy laws).

We are all now essentially now just GPS-collared "output generators," or whatever the current marketing-speak term is.

Yes, it is scary, but the majority of citizens will not realize it until we have another you-know-who that rises to power somewhere. Or, hey, maybe their insurance rates go up because they have some sort of profile that makes them "high-risk." Oh, wait, that last thing is already happening.

Oh, also, many employers (for years) have run a credit-check on potential hires, or before promoting a current employee. Well, today, many employers are also buying a profile of potential hires/promotees from the data-aggregators (who buy info from cell providers, your bank, CVS, etc.). The troubling thing with this is that, although the credit-agencies have some legal constraints (though not enough), the data-aggregators do not really have any. Their databases are rife with errors and false correlations. There have been documented cases (which I'm too lazy to cite, but search NYT) where people have had several job offers revoked, over a period of months, each for no apparent reason. Y'know, HR Departments do not hire the best-and-brightest, do they?

Re:Why not? (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#43711963)

yeah.. if they had a legal use case, they could just ask for the data.

Sounds like it's common corruption then: government paying friends in the industry for what it should be getting for free.

People seem to care more about corruption than their rights being taken away, so maybe go after it from that angle?

Re:Why not? (1)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year ago | (#43709515)

I'm far more worried that ability to sell these is given to private parties in the first place and is not under heavy legal lock-down.

Government here in Western countries more often then not both has good reasons to want data, such as to combat crime. If there were tight rules and regulation on who and how can purchase such data for all parties including law enforcement, such as one in Nordics where you typically cannot resell such private data without significant legal hurdles such as search warrant that really aren't worth the price you'll have to pay if it's just about turning a bit of a profit, the system works fine.

It becomes a problem only when data selling is for all bits and purposes a free for all and privacy is completely disregarded. Such as this case in UK. It should be (and possibly is) illegal.

Re:Why not? (2)

MrL0G1C (867445) | about a year ago | (#43709891)

Actually, given that you could extrapolate most people's identities from the data mentioned (postcode, gender and age), this sale would be illegal under EU data protection laws.

Re:Why not? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about a year ago | (#43709009)

Margaret Atwood's "Positron" series of E-books explores the idea of a community that is set up where people volunteer to be locked up half the time so that everyone can have jobs. It's not a very practical idea (the ultimate version of the Broken Window fallacy) but it's an interesting thought experiment... a self-supporting community that is held together because at any one time the other half of the population is in jail and needs to be supported.

Paying good money for a service (1)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#43708931)

To turn around and be sold as an asset. Man, and Facebook is only taking on end of that deal!

police not interested in buying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43708997)

because they can just demand the data, and more, whenever the fuck they want.

So what? Nothing will be done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43709061)

So these companies have 27 million counts of violating European privacy laws, when will the prison sentences start coming down? Guess what, they won't. This is just another corporate case of "Oh we are so sorry we got caught doing something illegal/unethical ... and we'll be just as sorry the next time."

For specific groups this is a good thing (-1, Troll)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43709159)

We have lots of Muslims in the UK, a large number of whom say they would like to overthrow democracy and introduce Sharia law [secularism.org.uk] . Following them is a positively good idea.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (3, Interesting)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43709237)

So you're a follower then?

Seriously, there are legal methods of tracking people, and privacy protections for a reason. Throwing them all away for the guise of 'safety' NEVER works.
Would you like to be 'followed' because of a political or religious belief of yours, or your skin color, or sexual orientation? Open up for one, open up for all.
All you do is lose rights and privacy. You may gain a sense of safety, but not real safety.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43709271)

Oh don't rise to it. Him and SplashMyBandit are Slashdot's two resident far right fascists. They pepper every discussion with lies and views that would literally make Hitler proud (yes I just godwinned this thread) even if it's entirely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Given their posting styles I'm not even sure they're two separate people for what it's worth...

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43709535)

Oh don't rise to it. Him and SplashMyBandit are Slashdot's two resident far right fascists. They pepper every discussion with lies and views that would literally make Hitler proud (yes I just godwinned this thread) even if it's entirely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

Interesting, I class myself as centre left and have had people accuse me of being too left wing on some issues.

Given their posting styles I'm not even sure they're two separate people for what it's worth...

I am not him, in fat before you posted his name I was not aware of him. I have read some of his posts and he does appear to have a good understanding of the the Muslim threat and the teachings of Islam, though I haven't seen his posts on other topics though

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43709647)

> Interesting, I class myself as centre left and have had people accuse me of being too left wing on some issues.

Funny that, so does SplashMyBandit. It doesn't change the fact that you're both far right though.

> I am not him, in fat before you posted his name I was not aware of him.

Heh, this makes me think that maybe I am on to something and that you are both one and the same, because given the amount the two of you post there's no way you can not be aware of him - it's a blatant lie on your behalf if you're suggesting you've never noticed his posts on the same topic the two of you so dearly post no matter how irrelevant to the discussion. Something to hide?

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43709881)

> I am not him, in fat before you posted his name I was not aware of him.

Heh, this makes me think that maybe I am on to something and that you are both one and the same, because given the amount the two of you post there's no way you can not be aware of him - it's a blatant lie on your behalf if you're suggesting you've never noticed his posts on the same topic the two of you so dearly post no matter how irrelevant to the discussion. Something to hide?

I probably read him but did not note who he was, or that all the comments came from the same person.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43709861)

Fascists have always been of the left. Leftest continue to deny it.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43709993)

Fascists have always been of the left. Leftest continue to deny it.

Actually I think it is a two-dimensional situation, as illustrated by Political Compass [politicalcompass.org] . Though I don't know how accurate their assessments of the individuals is, I think the principle that either left or right wing politicians can be authoritarian is true.

BTW I do not consider myself to be authoritarian in general, its just that the expressed intention of Muslims to undermine our societies necessitates extraordinary measures. The freedoms of non-muslims should be protected as far as possible when a hostile group has declared war on us.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43713653)

Fascists are authoritarian leftists. Expropriating industries etc. 'Capitalist' was code for 'Jewish' in 1930.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43710345)

I am not him, in fat before you posted his name I was not aware of him.

Look here: http://slashdot.org/~Chrisq/friends [slashdot.org]

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43710373)

I am not him, in fat before you posted his name I was not aware of him.

Look here: http://slashdot.org/~Chrisq/friends [slashdot.org]

Yes, I added it after reading the post telling me about him

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43709483)

So you're a follower then?

Seriously, there are legal methods of tracking people, and privacy protections for a reason.

Yes, it should be done legally

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#43709953)

Following them with a paper trail like this?
If the GCHQ likes your calls to/from the UK they go for an optical link and get it all, cell tower, home internet, phone...
Your voice print will be referenced to any found in Africa, Middle East, Asia or just kept due to the calls you made. Like with calls to Ireland in the 1960-70-80-90's its all done in bulk, every call.
This story is interesting due to the 100m comment thats now in the open vs a tricky hint that extra hardware was needed or more complex interpolating signals.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SISMI-Telecom_scandal [wikipedia.org] shows what could be done in the past.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

logjon (1411219) | about a year ago | (#43710275)

Do you wear knee pads or did you just let callouses build?

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43710409)

We have lots of Muslims in the UK, a large number of whom say they would like to overthrow democracy and introduce Sharia law [secularism.org.uk] . Following them is a positively good idea.

No. You should never be monitoring people for believing something or subscribing to an ideology. All you should be worried about is whether or not the law is being broken or not. There is nothing wrong with saying "I want this country to be under Sharia Law and will work to make it happen" as long as the methods you use are Legal. The government should only care when the methods are illegal in nature, the goal itself (communism, democracy, islam, etc.) is irrelevant.

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43710463)

We have lots of Muslims in the UK, a large number of whom say they would like to overthrow democracy and introduce Sharia law [secularism.org.uk] . Following them is a positively good idea.

No. You should never be monitoring people for believing something or subscribing to an ideology. All you should be worried about is whether or not the law is being broken or not. There is nothing wrong with saying "I want this country to be under Sharia Law and will work to make it happen" as long as the methods you use are Legal. The government should only care when the methods are illegal in nature, the goal itself (communism, democracy, islam, etc.) is irrelevant.

If there were a reasonable probability that they would act within the law then I would agree. The thing is they say that they do not recognize Western laws [blogspot.co.uk] .

Re:For specific groups this is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43710697)

But are they statistically more likely to break the law in practice? I think you'll find not.

who's to say AT&T isn't doing this already in (2)

girlinatrainingbra (2738457) | about a year ago | (#43710047)

Who's to say AT&T isn't doing this already in USA?

Verizon is already doing this, and has been for a while, according to
PC World's article about this [pcworld.com]


Verizon to Share User Location Data, Browsing History With Marketers

Verizon has posted changes to its privacy policy stating that it will now share user location data, Web browsing history and demographic information with marketers.

While Verizon insists that it will not provide third parties with any information identifying users on a personal basis, it will give them a wide array of its users' information, including websites they frequent on their Verizon devices, places where their devices have been, and demographic categories such as gender and age range. Verizon will also share user interests with marketers, such as whether they're a sports fan, own a pet or what sort of restaurants they frequent.

The Department of Justice in the USA already wants carriers to keep user location data [directionsmag.com] for further review by DOJ as needed, warranted or not.

Apple already got slogged for tracking user location data in articles [seattletimes.com] and on South Park's "Human Centipad" episode [southparkstudios.com] , if you remember that. And that was followed by Android having to deal with user location tracking issues [inc.com] in May of 2011.

All of this just by searching for [ +"user location data" ] on your favorite search engine! So why aren't people up in arms about this?? Oh yeah, because not only do they accept this voluntarily, they pay the damn phone companies a monthly allotment to take their personal data and sell it! Damn sheep!

Superdickery (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43710157)

George Orwell was British, right?

We are all thinking it.. (2)

GigaBurglar (2465952) | about a year ago | (#43710621)

At the risk of of some kind of CONSPIRACY THEORIST - pah! (aka fucking lunatic) - I say this with every fibre of my being - FUCK THE FUCKING SYSTEM! - we are all thinking it but no-one will say it.. so I will FUCK IT, FUCK EVERYONE WHO IS ON BOARD, FUCK YOU, AND FUCK YOUR FUCKING COWARD FACE! FUCK EVERYONE WHO IS A BAD PERSON, FUCK THE CONSERVATIVES, FUCK THE MEDIA, FUCK THE MURDERING BASTARD CORPORATIONS, FUCK THE CORPORATIONS WHO SELL YOUR SOUL FOR A BUCK, FUCK IGNORANT ASSHOLE PEOPLE, FUCK RACISTS, FUCK EVERYONE! Every single one of you deserve your fate - every single one.

"Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power." -- Benito Mussolini

Enjoy your fucking iPad - asshole.

Suspect numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43710929)

There is no way that EE has 27m subscribers - that would mean they have approx half the UK as subscribers.
EE runs multiple networks - not just 4G, but 2G and 3G too. The 4G network only has 300k subs, and take up has been very slow (compounded by crap coverage and the fact that 3G nets in the UK are 'good enough' for most people)

GCHQ records ALL UK communications data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711329)

Like the NSA in America, GCHQ in the UK records all communications traffic, including (but not limited to) emails, phone calls, and data from major nation-wide surveillance systems (cameras and microphones). GCHQ also gathers complete real-time tracking information from all cell phone networks and monitors vehicle movement across the UK with the most comprehensive system of under-surface tire-RFID reading sensor strips in the world. Every major and minor transport hub in the UK, including every train station, has face-recognition camera systems to allow GCHQ to attempt to monitor all Human traffic as well.

The intelligence gathering of GCHQ has NOTHING to do with 'terrorism' or criminal activity. Instead, it is an asset for those that actually rule the UK to monitor and control the population. GCHQ provides real-time feedback on the success of current 'government' propaganda campaigns, and also identifies 'dissident' groups of individuals whose political activities may disrupt the success with which the 'government' will have rolling out new 'initiatives'. GCHQ allows potentially disruptive opposition to be harassed and/or closed down before such actions gain wider support amongst the general public.

The downside of GCHQ's mode of operation is that their information cannot be used to directly provide 'evidence' in criminal or civil actions. The betas are NOT allowed to know the extent and nature of GCHQ's work, by definition. The same applies in the USA with the intelligence gathered by the NSA. As a consequence of this, the betas ARE increasing informed of direct relationships between information gathering companies (like the big Telecom giants) and the police (or, increasingly, 'non-government' enforcement agencies granted ever increasing powers by the government). The betas are supposed to believe that ONLY in this way is information collected on them being disseminated to third parties.

The trick is clever and very nasty. If the public abuse of information collected about ordinary people creates any kind of backlash amongst the mob, these actions can be rolled back WITHOUT disrupting the 'invisible' work of organisations like GCHQ and NSA. In the meantime, the UK continues its descent into a nightmare way beyond anything Orwell dared to imagine. Remember, it is Tony Blair's regime (more strongly in control of the UK than ever before) that is responsible for the holocausts that destroyed moderate, secular, stable, Western-leaning Libya and Syria, in order to create extremist terrorist playgrounds to provide the forces necessary to finally allow Blair's extermination of Iran. The police state in the UK is the engine driving the rolling programs of war across this planet.

So dox 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43711753)

Home addresses, car registrations, spouses occupation and employers, childrens schools, golf clubs/leisure activities of the executive teams please!

reward waiting

Let's look at the bigger picture here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43712915)

At least in the US, the Supreme Court ruled that simply being in a place where there has been known drug activity is probable cause for a detention and search.

So, if you're driving through an area where drug crimes have been committed at any time in the past, police can pull you over and a judge will issue a warrant to detain you and search your vehicle for drugs.

Turning location data over to police is dangerous, because it will allow police to mine the data and get a warrant to come search you, your car, your house, and your wife's vagina for drugs, just because you drove through an area where drugs had been.

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