Is Kent Police listening to your mobile phone? (Stock image)

Is Kent Police listening to your mobile phone?

Kent Police is officially refusing to say whether it has devices capable of listening into people’s mobiles phones.

It was asked under Freedom of Information rules whether it uses the so-called Covert Communications Data Capture equipment, but refused to either confirm or deny its existence.

The force says releasing the information “could create a risk to national security or give criminals an insight into certain police tactics”.

Other forces have admitted they use Covert Communications Data Capture.

And in 2014, the Kent Police was discovered to have attempted to have accessed a journalist’s mobile phone records in the scandal involving former Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne in which his then wife fraudulently accepted penalty points for a speeding offence.

Former Lib Dem MP Chris Huhne

It had been attempting to identify the source of a Mail on Sunday story about the Huhne affair.

The Mail on Sunday subsequently accused police of “wrongfully” accessing innocent people’s information and said the law which allowed this to happen gave “officials frightening and near-totalitarian powers”.

In late 2016 Kent Police was asked under the Freedom of Information Act whether it had Covert Communications Data Capture, how it had used it and what promotional information it acquired ahead of purchasing it.

The force refused to answer and a complaint was later lodged with the Information Commissioner.

The commissioner ruled that Kent had been correct to withhold the information except the request concerning promotional information.

Adrian Futers, head of operational and information security at Kent Police, explained to the Canterbury Journal why it had adopted its position.

He said: “Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, police forces are entitled to withhold certain information if, for example, it is believed publication could create a risk to national security or give criminals an insight into certain police tactics.

“In this particular case we followed guidance from the National Police Chiefs’ Council in neither confirming nor denying whether Kent Police held information relating to the purchase of Covert Communications Data Capture (CCDC) equipment.

“Following an appeal by the applicant, the Information Commissioner ruled that we were entitled to do so under the sections of the Freedom of Information Act that relate to security bodies and national security.

“However, the ruling also states that we should have confirmed whether or not the force had received any marketing or promotional materials relating to CCDC equipment, and whether or not the force held any relevant legislation or codes of practice. These points will now be addressed in a subsequent response to the applicant.”

One response to “Is Kent Police listening to your mobile phone?”

  1. Robert Sheridan says:

    OMG! The Old Bill is bang to rights; caught, red-handed, dabbling in 21st century technology. I can hear the “oooh, criminals have rights too” brigade wobbling from here!

    Back in the day, thieves stole horses, so the Police chased them on faster mounts. When robbers tried to get away on bicycles, coppers gave pursuit on better bikes. Then it was cars, with Mr Plod in a supercharged Jag and so it went on. If you refuse to believe this, then log into ITV4 and watch a mid-1970s episode of The Sweeney. Comms made via 2p phone box calls, handwritten messages left in pigeon holes and charmingly, all the filing and typing done by female secretaries in smoky offices. Younger readers may need to Google phone boxes, handwriting and secretaries!

    It’s very simple. If you want the bad guys (who steal your property, trash your homes, sell drugs to your kids and in doing so, spend their illicitly gained money on the best technology) to be nicked and put away, then those Police Officers tasked with doing this have to employ leading edge solutions. It’s that, or they’ll have to stand around with analogue phones, word processors and fax machines, watching the felonious bastards get away with it. Having the tools do the job is what the Police need. Put another way (by Shakespeare, a little while ago) one fights fire with fire.

    I’m really pleased that British society enjoys the luxury of tolerance in a relatively easy-going way. We’re not a bad crowd in these islands are we? The UK may not be Utopia but it’s a long way from Dystopia, which is exactly where we’d be, were criminals, perverts and murderers to run things in their anarchic way, with no chance of ever being caught. It follows then, that if we want to be kept safe, with our homes/property intact and our kids not interfered with, or stuffed full of Class A drugs, then the Police need not just the most up-to-date, sophisticated kit but our 100% support.

    Be ye certain, if you (yes, you!) are unlucky enough to be burgled, robbed, assaulted, or make the unhappy acquaintance of a drug dealer, then I guarantee you’ll want Kent Police to pull out all the technological stops and do so PDQ. This may include officers employing devices which can track mobiles, bug criminals, decode encrypted texts etc etc. You don’t have to be wildly enthusiastic about this but simply look in a mirror and nod to know and acknowledge that it’s a necessary part of criminal detection, deployed to keep us and our tolerant society safe in the 21st century.

    If there remain any bunny-hugging, hand-wringing, “villains have rights too” snowflakes, please feel free to moan like hell about all of the above. You won’t complain then, I’m sure, when Burglar Bill reads your comment, works out who you are and turns over your gaff, safe in the knowledge that you’ll approve. For the rest of us innocents, in whom the Police have zero interest, if the kit’s available and provides a technological solution to the scourge of criminality, bring it on!

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