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 The UK's Burgeoning Police State, The criminalisation of everyone
The Antagonist
Posted: Jan 7 2011, 04:11 PM


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Serco, the biggest company you've probably never heard of - the wrath of god, hand-delivered, worldwide. The article below is from almost five years ago.
The Jane Martinson interview
Happy, touchy-feely and driven by God

The Serco chief Christopher Hyman is unusual for his values of doing business, with staff and customers coming first and profit last

          o Jane Martinson
          o The Guardian, Friday 24 February 2006 12.01 GMT

Have you recently travelled on a train in northern England? Or on London's Docklands Light Railway? Or perhaps been caught by a speed camera?

If the answer to any of these questions was yes - or you have spent any time in custody or the armed forces -chances are you have dealt with the support services company Serco. With almost 48,000 people helping to service 600 largely public-sector contracts around the world, Serco is probably the biggest company you've never heard of.

Next Wednesday, the company's ambitious young chief executive, Christopher Rajendran Hyman, is expected to announce a strong set of results with a bumper £13bn order book. In the past six years Serco has doubled its turnover to an estimated £2bn a year and almost trebled its profits to about £100m after benefiting from the switch from public to private sector.

The City is usually sceptical about such low profit margins, but Hyman, a 42-year-old who combines the zeal of Cliff Richard with the determination of Seb Coe in his racing days, manages to make such margins seem like a good thing while at the same time buying firms that improve matters.

"One of the things we find around 37 countries, is what people find acceptable. What sort of money should people make out of the public sector," he explains in the company's headquarters close to the river Thames in Richmond.

An Indian Pentecostal Christian from South Africa, Hyman is an unusual chief executive in many ways, not least his enthusiasm for what he calls the values of doing business. He gave a speech on the subject at the Business in the Community conference last year which made seasoned executives sit up and take notice, such was his enthusiasm for putting people first so that the rest - profits, investors, power - would follow.


"I am very passionate about our values and building this company not to make a profit," he says. "If profit is an immediate by-product, then that's wonderful ... If you can make it have an impact on society, people's lives and make it fun, crumbs, then we don't have to worry about making this profit or that. It happens naturally."

Slim, upright and gleaming with good health, he doesn't quite bang the table when he speaks but you sense that he might do at any moment. With an incredibly direct gaze and fierce handshake, he describes himself as "evangelical" about getting people to feel that their work really matters, whether it's keeping records for schools in Walsall or maintaining Greenwich mean time signals.

"You can choose to leave a mark or you can choose not to. I tell people here: if you can make a difference in whatever you do, bid it. Don't give me a proposal that makes a shed-load of money - will it be a better place when you leave than when you arrived?" He insists Serco was founded with these values; he has just capitalised on his inheritance and stressed honesty as the best policy when dealing with all management issues. He doesn't pretend to agree just to make a subordinate feel better, for example.

Unlike most chief executives, Hyman is perfectly happy to link his business ethos with his personal beliefs. "I've taken it to a more personal level because I absolutely grew up with these values."

He was brought up, the second of four children, in a deeply religious household in apartheid Durban. "My faith is very strong. My whole life, I believe, is driven by God. It's well known that if Einstein had a son I would be furthest away from that relative. I'm no genius," - at this point, he smiles a dazzling smile - "what I am successful for is listening to God." He donates a biblical tithe - or 10% of his annual income (£569,018 last year) - to his local Pentecostal church in Surrey and fasts every Tuesday, as he has done every week of his life.

Asked if this is difficult in Britain, where spending every Sunday in the pub is often more socially acceptable than at church, he admits it can be. "Yes, people laugh. People ask if it's some weird cult thing. Why don't I swear? Because I refuse to. Why don't I drink? Because I was taught not to. Why haven't I ever tried any of those things? It was the way I was brought up." [Although Muslims are often portrayed as other for their abstinence from drinking]

Hyman has instilled some of these values at Serco, where staff are advised not to hold an official evening function unless partners and spouses are invited. Hyman's version of "having a good time and celebrating our success" means sharing an orange juice at lunchtime.

Conscious of my own department's late-night leaving party for the boss the night before our meeting, I start to squirm slightly in my chair but fortunately Hyman does not notice.

"I'm always sober so when the guys tell me the same joke for the tenth time at 11.30pm, I still laugh. But you tend to see silly behaviour from the irresponsible people, the weaker part of society, starting to misbehave ... I don't want to be the sponsor of that." According to Serco's own survey, 80% of the former public-sector workers feel happier in the private-sector firm. Perhaps more tellingly, Serco itself has been named Britain's most admired support services company in an annual Management Today survey for two years running.

Hyman, who has two young children and a South African wife, was described as "driven" and "relentlessly affable" by analysts. A man who constantly uses slightly old-fashioned idioms such as "head honcho", "nutter" and "airy fairy" describes himself as a "happy chap". "When I wake up in the morning I think good thoughts; 99% of people are good people."

The enthusiasm has a sub-stratum of relentless competitiveness. Towards the end of the interview, he admits: "I am never good enough. I am a depressive. It all becomes very personal."

A great sprinter when younger, he considered a career as an athlete when he ran 100 metres in 10.8 seconds. He went on a special diet and made himself vomit, but then realised that he would never be good enough to win gold and stopped. He is a passionate formula 3 motor racer but cried when he came fourth in his first ever race. "I felt such a failure - I was embarrassed and incredibly emotional."


"I'm probably one of the most competitive people around," he admits. "I can't play tennis with my wife without serving my normal serve. She quite often calls me a 4-year-old child and storms off." When his wife asks if just once he would let his seven-year-old son beat him at go-karting, he said he would be teaching him that "he's better than an adult". "It's terrible," he admits.

He is hugely proud of his father, the son of a waiter who runs seven businesses in South Africa. His father started by "selling used cars, where it's not well known for someone to take an ethical stand," and fired people who turned back clocks and used dodgy parts.

Hyman became one of a handful of non-whites to study at his university. He then worked for Arthur Andersen in South Africa until he won an 18-month exchange with Ernst & Young, which brought him to Britain. After four months, the accountancy firm gave the hard-working young man a permanent job. His switch to Serco in 1994 felt like a coming home and he tells a story of the boss's wife helping out when his own wife had a disabling migraine.

Serco's share price has performed solidly rather than spectacularly and this may be because of its emphasis on such touchy-feely sentiments. Hyman admits: "This may not go down very well but I put people first, then customers, then shareholders. If [our] people are happy, everyone else is happy."

The company flouts corporate governance norms since the former chief executive, Kevin Beeston, is now executive chairman. He deals with governmental relations while Hyman focuses on customers. "We've never structured it to fit the mould. We do what's right for the business and over time the roles have evolved."

Hyman's life changed when he found himself in the World Trade Centre on 9/11. He does not want much of this "traumatic" experience to appear in print but admits it made him, a workaholic who sleeps for only a few hours a night, want to spend more time with his family. "I decided to do things that previously I'd thought a bit naff, like taking my wife's birthday off to go shopping. I mean, how naff is that?"

It is hard to imagine him letting up much. On his almost barren desk is a diary which he analyses every month with the help of a secretary to make sure it fits his needs. "I can be anal about this stuff. I want to spend about 30% of my time on historic stuff and 70% on pro-active stuff, getting new business, that sort of stuff."

His secretary points to her own desk, buried in paperwork, and says. "He works me like a slave." Then she laughs and everyone seems quite happy again.

Hyman on Hyman

What are your best and worst personality traits?

I make my mind up pretty quickly, although my wife says this makes me too judgmental. And I am extremely competitive - I can't even let my seven-year-old win at go-karting.

What was your worst business decision?

Using all my savings to buy a takeaway place on a beach in South Africa in my last year at college.

Who inspires you?

My father, a truly self-made man, and Richard White, former chairman of Serco.

How do you relax?

Motor racing and holidays. Favourite places are Antigua and Switzerland for skiing.

What books do you enjoy reading?

Technical motor-racing stuff and biographies, anything from Jack Welch [former General Electric chief executive] to Mandela to Michael Schumacher.

See also: Sydney Homeless: Who you pay to run Aussie Detention Centres

This post has been edited by The Antagonist on Jan 7 2011, 04:38 PM
The Antagonist
Posted: Feb 11 2011, 09:43 PM


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QUOTE (justthefacts @ Jan 25 2008, 08:49 PM)
QUOTE (The Antagonist @ Dec 4 2007, 03:55 PM)
Regarding the above, I've mentioned this book briefly before, but I can heartily recommend the following book:
A Survey of Police Corruption
Written by James Morton
396 pages
Published by Warner Books
ISBN 0 7515 0950 7

If the history documented in the book is anything to go by, ever since their earliest incarnations hundreds of years ago, the police have been viewed by the great, unwashed, working class masses as little more than the common, and seemingly unendingly corrupt, self-serving and, more often than not, drunk, enemy. According to the book, in their earliest days the police would quite often return stolen goods to their owners on the proviso that no questions were asked about the way in which they happened upon the 'stolen' goods. There is also coverage of a court case from the 1830s in which a coached witness was brought forward in court and who was subsequently widely dismissed by the assembled jury as being such. It makes for very interesting and informative reading.

This is a good one:

user posted image

The last decade has shattered the myth that Britain has a uniquely benevolent police force. Crude corruption has been exposed in the cases of the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the Tottenham Three.

Police violence has been seen time and again as riot squads attacked miners, printers, anti poll tax demonstrators and travellers.

But are these exceptions? Do the police still fulfil other useful roles? Do they protect us from the crime that seems to blight so many people's lives?

Audrey Farrell examines the real roots of crime and finds the police have virtually no role in stopping it. She asks and answers many more questions. If the police don't stop crime, then what do they do?

FileOn4: Bent Cops
08 Feb 11
from File on 4

Following a series of trials where police officers have been jailed, Allan Urry investigates how police are drawn into crime and asks if more should be done to stop them.

Download 18MB (right click & "save target as")
Posted: Feb 13 2011, 09:10 PM

Group: J7 Forum Team
Posts: 2,628
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Joined: 5-July 07

There’s Serco, ‘Bringing Services to Life’ and misery to thousands of children who have passed through the company’s Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.

Business is brilliant. Shortly after celebrating record annual results — profits up 30 per cent to £177 million — chief executive Chris Hyman (£3,233 every day) spent one recent bright spring day down at Silverstone, test-driving his team’s Ferrari F430 ahead of the new racing season.

Besides locking up asylum seekers ‘with respect and understanding’, Serco brings its ‘deep public service ethos’ and ‘commercial know-how’ to defence, transport, civil government, science, the private sector and, with rising excitement, education and the NHS.

They have got an awful lot under corporate control.

Serco trains RAF helicopter crews, helps run the National Nuclear Laboratory and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

They sell intelligence systems to law enforcement agencies including the National Crime Squad and the tax-man.

They help police forces connect intelligence with number plate recognition in systems so fast and flexible they can easily adapt to new police powers.

Serco supplies the rising numbers of covert surveillance vehicles that police forces demand, builds and runs prisons and youth offender facilities, monitors electronically tagged offenders, enforces curfews.

They’re running state schools in Bradford, Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent, they’ve got their fingers on 3,500 Sure Start children’s centres.

They provide out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall, employ ‘community matrons’ in Newham, they manage stacks of PFIs and will take more than £250 million from the NHS over the next ten years for pathology services alone.

They’ve got 7000 security-cleared staff working on ‘significant elements’ of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

And guess who has won the freshly privatised cabinet office contract to run the Emergency Planning College at Hawkhills in North Yorkshire? Yes. From Friday, Serco controls the training of the people who would take charge during emergencies and disasters when the Civil Contingencies Act — the one with all those alarming arbitrary powers — kicks in.

‘The challenges we face are unprecedented,’ says Serco. ‘They call for a seamless, holistic approach to security and civil contingency.’


For someone who gets so much business from the UK government, Chris Hyman seems surprisingly unruffled by the election. ‘We have very significant business with local authorities,’ he told CNBC’s business channel earlier this year. Regionalisation, ‘has gone very well with us.’

And anyway, ‘It’s pretty much, we work for the civil servants really. There’s not much that we do that has to go through Parliament for decisions.’

If that’s the case, then we must rely on civil servants to fight our corner should conflicts arise between the interests of society and the security industry.

Sentencing over prison smuggling

(UKPA) – Feb 4, 2011

A Crown Court custody officer from London and a health worker from Essex have been jailed for smuggling drugs and mobile phones into prison.

Alan Redmond, 25, who worked for private security firm Serco, and Ronald Smiles, 54, employed in the hospital ward at HMP Brixton, admitted passing contraband to prisoners.

Both were given three-year sentences as they were sentenced alongside serving HMP Brixton prisoner Jonathan Lawlor, Lawlor's girlfriend Hayley Turner and Jean Stacey, the mother of fellow prisoner Anthony Stacey, all of whom were involved in two separate smuggling conspiracies.

Redmond, of Trundleys Terrace, Deptford, admitted misconduct in public office between January 2006 and January 2010, and conspiring to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and tobacco into prison from January to December 2009 at Southwark Crown Court.

Turner, a 31-year-old mother-of-five of Slades Drive, Chislehurst, Kent, admitted conspiring to smuggle mobile phones into prison and was jailed for eight months.

Lawlor, whom the court heard Turner was "besotted" with, was given a 12-month sentence, to serve after his current term for wounding and affray comes to an end. He had admitted conspiring to smuggle mobile phones and making telephone calls while in prison.

In a separate conspiracy, Smiles, of Willow Close, Hockley, smuggled items to prisoners between July and October 2009. He admitted misconduct in public office and conspiring to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and tobacco into prison.

Jean Stacey, 59, of Barcombe Avenue, Streatham Hill, south London, was given an eight-month sentence, suspended for two years, for conspiring to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and tobacco into prison.

Anthony Stacey, 32, of no fixed address, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to smuggle drugs, mobile phones and tobacco into prison.

A spokesman for Serco Court Escort and Custody Services said: "This sentence sends a clear message that corruption will not be tolerated. It marks the successful outcome of a joint operation between the Metropolitan Police, the Prison Service and ourselves."

The Antagonist
Posted: Mar 9 2011, 11:30 PM


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For the record: what the police will know about you
Val Swain looks at how the police are set to grab even more 'intelligence' data

For the past six years a secretive, unaccountable, publicly-funded yet privately-run organisation has collected, collated and analysed vast amounts of personal data relating to political activists, organisers and protesters. By next summer, the £8 million-a-year operation run by the National Coordinator for Domestic Extremism (NCDE) will pass into the control of the Metropolitan Police. This is intended to increase democratic accountability and reassure concerned politicians. Perhaps it will – but on the ground little is likely to change.

Until now, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), a private company engaged in lobbying government and steering police policy, has operated three ‘domestic extremism’ units under the management of the NCDE. These units have access to the data collected by all of Britain’s 43 police forces on individuals and groups engaged in protest or other political activity. They oversee and co-ordinate intelligence gathering on a national scale. This is a powerful organisation, capable of labelling a protester as a ‘domestic extremist’, a tag that is sometimes interpreted as being only one step below ‘terrorist’. Many have argued that the NCDE units should not be operated outside the accountability structures of normal policing. The real question is whether they should be operated at all.

From a civil liberties perspective, there has been consistent criticism of the NCDE units. While the NCDE repeats the mantra that it is only concerned with a small minority of protesters that commit criminal activities, that claim has worn very thin. The largest of the extremism units, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), was forced last year to admit to the Guardian that it kept the details of an 85-year-old pacifist who had never been in trouble with the police, and that it logged his presence at 80 demonstrations that he attended to lawfully protest against the arms trade. While the NCDE website hints at serious crime and terrorism, in reality just being on a protest is enough to justify intelligence gathering.

Also raising concerns is a second NCDE unit, the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU). Its role is to liaise with, advise and support corporations and private companies that have become ‘victims’ of protest campaigns. The NCDE’s involvement came after EDO, an arms company alleged to have supplied weapons components to the Israeli army, was subjected to weekly lawful but noisy protests outside its Brighton factory, and Eon, the energy firm criticised by environmentalists for generating dirty power, was the target of a proposed peaceful mass trespass by Climate Campers. Protesters have voiced concerns that NETCU has shared police intelligence with these companies and stepped well beyond the supposed neutrality of the police.

Theoretical accountability

While the move into the Met will in theory provide accountability and oversight through the Metropolitan Police Association and other police regulators, in reality little will change. The Met is already closely involved with the work of the NCDE. The NPOIU operates from premises provided by the Metropolitan Police at New Scotland Yard, and has seconded police officers and staff from the Met. The Met has also been a key player in developing intelligence-gathering tactics through the use of Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) – officers who monitor, photograph, identify and document political protesters.

The NCDE is engaged, fundamentally, in data analysis. Much of the dirty work is being done by the Met and other regional forces in collecting and storing data for the NCDE to use. Just how much data is kept, on whom, and in what format, has been difficult to determine. But work by campaign group Fitwatch and others has revealed that the Met, at least, holds a remarkable level of information. Its Public Order Unit, known as CO11, operates its own image and criminal database containing the personal details of thousands – possibly hundreds of thousands – of protesters, data that it shares with NCDE and the Counter Terrorism Unit. As the Financial Times and Sunday Times reported earlier this year, even MP Jeremy Corbyn and Nick Clegg’s interfaith advisor Fiyaz Mughal were the subjects of entries into the Met’s criminal intelligence database after speaking at a Stop the War rally.

For less well known targets, the police have an array of tricks and tactics at their disposal to obtain personal details and photographs. Police routinely video demonstrations, but also frequently seek to systematically photograph individuals in a crowd or group. It is undeniably intimidating – a small group of women holding a peaceful protest camp at Aldermaston found themselves visited by police and cameras earlier this year, and told that the photographs were being used for facial recognition purposes.

Kettles, or ‘containment’ as the police prefer, are used at least as much for intelligence-gathering as for public order purposes. At a trade union march in Birmingham a group was kettled and held after a lawful and peaceful protest moved away from the agreed march route. They were released only when they complied with being searched, filmed and identified. Those who refused were forcibly held in front of police cameras while their belongings were searched for identification. No arrests were made, and no illegal items seized.

Students at the recent protests in London have had a crash course in data-gathering. Protesters held for a long time in kettles provided police with ample opportunity for photographs, which will undoubtedly be retained for reasons other than criminal investigation.

Police used powers given them by the Police Reform Act to demand names and addresses, and they even made ‘preventative arrests’ under breach of the peace powers to make identifications. The vast majority of those people had committed no offence.

Paparazzi police

Possibly of most concern is the police practice of placing FITs outside lawful public meetings of political and campaign groups, so that those attending have had to deal with uniformed police with large cameras taking their photograph before they even got through the door. In Brighton, MP David Lepper last year accused Sussex police with ‘paparazzi-style’ lenses of deliberately intimidating those attending an environmental campaign meeting.

Intimidation is undoubtedly as much of a tactic as data gathering. Police claim they are deterring people from involvement in groups connected with unlawful activity or disorderly behaviour, and demonstrating that by getting involved in group ‘x’ or protest ‘y’, you are becoming associated with criminal activity, and will be treated as a criminal.

Judging by police behaviour, though, almost every political protest group in the country must be a criminal one, so widely is this tactic used. Many people have been frightened away from engaging in protest about a cause they believe in.

Some groups, such as Unite against Fascism (UAF), which hold peaceful counter-demonstrations against anti-Muslim group the English Defence League, have found themselves the targets of even stronger police interventions. Police forces have worked ‘in partnership’ with local authorities, universities and community organisations to actively dissuade people from attending UAF events. Young people, especially Muslim young people, who ignored this advice and turned up anyway have been targeted by stop and search operations, which frequently result in them having to give their names and addresses to police cameras. Some under 18-year-olds have even been warned that their presence could result in them being referred to social services.

All of this – the data-gathering, the deterrence and prevention – are the core components of the approach known as ‘intelligence-led policing’, described last month by Theresa May as remaining ‘at the centre’ of policing operations. It is a fundamental aspect of the British policing model that has been so heralded by politicians and police alike, and is now being exported around the world to deal with protest and disorder.

‘Intelligence-led policing’ de-emphasises crimes or offences that have been committed, in favour of targeting and deterring those judged to be the most likely perpetrators of future crimes. Kent police are often credited with inventing the term when they put their resources into targeting known car thieves rather than responding to reported thefts. Translated into the political scenario, intelligence-led policing targets whoever the police decide may be potential ‘domestic extremists’.

Numbers up

A classic example has been the implementation of ANPR, Automatic Number Plate Recognition, deployed to ‘deny criminals the use of the road’. It works by stopping, tracking or intercepting cars with vehicle number plates contained in a police database. As well as databases showing up criminal activity, there are databases showing up political activity. FIT officers working at protests frequently note the vehicle numbers of protesters’ cars. Even an elected politician was stopped last year at a police checkpoint some weeks after attending a protest at Faslane nuclear missile base.

Intelligence-led policing is also becoming a multi-million pound industry, with personal fortunes on the table for those who can aid its expansion. Technology is a driving force, with information analytics, facial recognition and database development constantly pushing the boundaries of what is achievable. It is also a lucrative career option for police officers and staff increasingly lured to technology companies working in the law enforcement intelligence field. At the same time, there are few, if any, practical constraints on what the police can do with our data. The police can claim exemption from nearly all of the main provisions of the Data Protection Act, and are permitted to share data with non-police recipients when it is in the interests of ‘preventing crime or disorder’.

Giving the Metropolitan Police control over a nationwide network of information and intelligence on political dissent does not make the policing of protests more accountable. It merely continues a process of centralising power that is far from the interests of a free society. The Met not only has a significant quasi-military capability, it is also acquiring powerful measures of social control. The level of control exercised over the police by any accountability structures is at best questionable, and at worst non-existent.

The British model of policing is one of policing by consent [Is it?  Where did anyone sign up for that?], and the British public, we are told, has consented to this form of policing. That is largely true – far too many of us are consenting and compliant to police data-gathering. The campaigns of protest groups for non-compliance with intelligence-led policing tactics need to be heard and heeded by all.

Val Swain is from Fitwatch.
The Antagonist
Posted: Mar 21 2011, 10:02 AM


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Security guards given police powers
Monday, 21 March 2011
The Independent

Private security guards are gaining limited policing powers today under a Government scheme to relieve the petty crime burden on forces.

They will be legally allowed to combat under-age drinking, begging and anti-social behaviour around one of Britain's busiest transport hubs.

Scotland Yard is accrediting 15 security guards from Ultimate Security Services with limited powers to operate around Victoria coach and train stations in central London.

Officers hope the scheme will relieve the strain on both the Met and British Transport Police services.

The security guards now have the power to:

:: Request a name and address for a string of offences including criminal damage, begging and anti-social behaviour;

:: Confiscate alcohol being consumed within a designated public place or by a person under the age of 18 years;

:: Confiscate cigarettes from under 16s;

:: Stop cyclists riding on footpaths.

Ruth Duston, chief executive of Victoria Business Improvement District, said the security guards provide extra "ears and eyes for SW1".

"The scheme will help to provide a safe and secure destination for all who live, work and visit the area," she added.

The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme is a Home Office initiative enabling force chiefs to designate targeted police powers to private firms.
Posted: Mar 21 2011, 10:16 AM

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Here we go - how long before they'll be calls to arm some of them? The ones that might start employing ex-military for example?
The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme is a Home Office initiative enabling force chiefs to designate targeted police powers to private firms.
Posted: May 11 2011, 11:22 AM

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Police buy software to map suspects' digital movements

Geotime software, bought by the Met, collates data from social networking sites, satnavs, mobiles and financial transactions

    * Ryan Gallagher and Rajeev Syal
    *, Wednesday 11 May 2011 12.00 BST

user posted image
Police have bought software that maps suspects' movements in space and time, in a step towards the futuristic crime detecting imagined in Minority Report.

Britain's largest police force is using software that can map nearly every move that suspects and their associates make in the digital world, prompting an outcry from civil liberties groups.

The Metropolitan police has bought Geotime, a security programme used by the US military, which shows an individual's movements and communications with other people on a three-dimensional graphic. It can be used to collate information gathered from social networking sites, satellite navigation equipment, mobile phones, financial transactions and IP network logs.

Police have confirmed its purchase and declined to rule out its use in investigating public order disturbances.

Campaigners and lawyers have expressed concern at how the software could be used to monitor innocent parties such as protesters in breach of data protection legislation.

Alex Hanff, the campaigns manager at Privacy International, called on the police to explain who will decide how this software will be used in future.

"Once millions and millions of pieces of micro data are aggregated, you end up with this very high-resolution picture of somebody, and this is effectively what they are doing here.

"We shouldn't be tracked and traced and have pictures built by our own government and police for the benefit of commercial gain," he said.

Sarah McSherry, a partner at Christian Khan Solicitors who represents several protesters in cases against the Metropolitan police, said: "We have already seen the utilisation of a number of tactics which infringe the right to peaceful protest, privacy and freedom of expression, assembly and movement. All of these have a chilling effect on participation in peaceful protest. 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."

Hugh Tomlinson QC, a specialist in privacy, said that a public body such as the police must be able to justify the lawfulness of how it uses the information it collects and retains.

"Storing data because it's potentially interesting or potentially useful is not good enough. There has got to be some specific justification," he said.

According to Geotime's website, the programme displays data from a variety of sources, allowing the user to navigate the data with a timeline and animated display.

The website claims that it can also throw up previously unseen connections between individuals.

"Links between entities can represent communications, relationships, transactions, message logs, etc and are visualised over time to reveal temporal patterns and behaviours," it reads.

The software was displayed in Britain earlier this month at the defence-industry Counter Terror exhibition in Olympia, west London. Curtis Garton, product management director for Oculus, the company that markets the programme, said the Metropolitan police was the only UK police force to have purchased the software. "[There are] a few countries that we don't sell to but in terms of commercial sales pretty much anybody can buy," he said.

The issue of data retention and how it is used has become a major political and judicial issue. The European justice commissioner Viviane Reding asserted in March that data protection rules also applied to data retention. "Individuals must be informed about which data is collected and for what purposes," she said. "To be effective, data protection rights need to actually be enforced."

The Guardian disclosed last week that an 86-year-old man had been granted permission to launch a lawsuit against police chiefs who kept a detailed record of his political activities on a clandestine database.

John Catt, who has no criminal record, is bringing the high court action against a secretive police unit which systematically logged his presence at more than 55 peace and human rights protests over a four-year period.

Some academics have praised the software as a positive move for the police in their fight against terrorist groups and organised crime.

Professor Anthony Glees, director of the University of Buckingham's Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said he was aware of tracking software such as Geotime and described its use as "absolutely right".

"There are these dangerous people out there and we need to stay ahead of the game in order to deal with the threat that they pose," he said. "My feeling is: if it can be done, and if its purpose is the protection of the ordinary citizen that wants to go about their lawful business ... then it's absolutely fine."

A spokesman for the Met confirmed that Geotime had been paid for and said several possible uses were being assessed including as a tool in "telephone investigations". He declined to clarify what a telephone investigation might be or how much the software cost and could not comment on whether the software might be used during investigations into public order offences in the future.

"We are 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. A decision has yet to be made as to whether we will adopt the technology [permanently]. We have used dummy data to look at how the software works and have explored how we could use it to examine police vehicle movements, crime patterns and telephone investigations," he wrote in an email.

Alongside the Met, the Ministry of Defence is also examining Geotime. A spokesman said: "The MoD is assessing Geotime as part of its research programme but it is not currently being used on operations."
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