The Thought Police have arrived.
Sorry we did not pay more attention Mr. Orwell...
Essex police have charged an 18-year-old woman from Clacton, after she allegedly sent a message via her BlackBerry device using its BBM service to incite others to commit thuggery during the England riots that gripped the country for four days. The cops cited the Serious Crime Act 2007 on the unnamed woman's charge sheet. …
Encouraging others to join in a riot is, and always has been, a serious crime. People have died in these riots. The fact that mobile technology makes it easier to do doesn't stop it being a serious criminal act (its an act, not just a thought).
If I saw a riot in full flow, I wouldn't call my mates and invite them to join in. I don't even know anybody who would want to. Nor would I help myself to a new telly. The people who organised this are criminals (even though it took rather less pre-planning than it would have a few years ago).
There have been cases where people appear to have been prosecuted on the basis of the authorities deliberately misinterpreting a tweet which any normal person could see wasn't intended to be threatening. This si something quite different.
But all this blaming of BBM being hard to 'tap' (compared to what.. ? public messages on Twitter?) just keeps triggering alarm bells for me.
I'm a BES (blackberry enterprise server) admin, and yes, this is different from the public BIS, and have some idea of what all can be done with these phones..
Having your criminals flock to one platform they see as safe might be the best thing that could ever happen to 'crime fighters'.
Having a central server to listen in on, from a company which has always been very supportive of law enforcement agencies (without even talking about pushing 'investigative' policies and apps to users) is much more easy to deal with then a million different IM apps like Whatsapp or good old MSN/Google talk/ICQ/AIM.
As explained in a previous El Reg piece, BBM is being targeted because as far I know it's the only (semi)private messaging system they can access immediately under DPA legislation as BB cache the traffic on their servers, this means the communication is not live and not subject to RIPA.
Police are merely follwing the path of least resistance here, no doubt they're interested in other systems but haven't had the approval to go digging.
I must live in a very strange place, because I keep hearing how well the iphone is doing but I'd estimate that easily more than half my student chums have Blackberries (i'm a semi-mature student). They are all over the place; sat in lectures and there's just rows of them on the desks, while iphones are rare, to say the least. The kids do love the BBs apparently.
Everybody's BBMing each other all the time, "It's only a fiver a month!" they cry, "You can send short messages comprised of text on this service!!",
It's like the 90s again except worse, because this time you can only send these messages to other Blackberries.
Police to BB: "Here's a warrant. We want all this traffic from these dates that contain these keywords."
BB: "Sure thing. Here you go"
The decision is surprisingly simple when a company is faced with a demand for information to help in police matters: supply the info, or get done for perverting the course of justice.
What is really concerning me is the way the governement are dealing with this. In the business world we use tools like Root Cause Analsis / Six Sigma to model and understand these problems.
All the government seem to want to do is pick off technologies one by one until they can disrupt communication enought to stop the problem. BBM is not really something new, riots in the 80's they used CB Radio to get organised...
How about understanding the variation in people which causes the problems, a simple General Linear Model based around a good measurement system and interviews with the Good Guys and the Bad Guys would get you your answer.
Stop blaming technology, it is an enabler, not the cause!
".....How about understanding the variation in people which causes the problems....." Sorry, but under the political rules of Say No un-PC Truths, there is no way any of the three main UK parties will want to look at their lifestsyles, outlook or social groupings of those involved.
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