500,000 requests a year

This figure is taken from a December 2002 BBC report: "Mobile phone firms are being overwhelmed by police requests for information about suspects' calls, the companies have complained. Almost half a million inquiries are made to the firms every year by police and customs officers, the BBC has learned".

BCSL have no more recent figure. In September 2005 we were told that:

  • Once the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act came into force, it was decided to stop collecting the statistics.
  • It is thought that the number of requests has roughly doubled since 2002.

It is clear how the location and timing data assists criminal and terrorist investigations and investigations conducted by customs and excise officers.

It should be noted that location-detection is not just a matter of crime and terrorism, there are several other applications for timing and location data. Managing traffic-flow, for example, and monitoring people's health. Keeping tabs on your children and finding your friends. The technology comes into its own whenever people are lost and was particularly valuable in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. Many applications are being developed by the private sector and people are pleased to subscribe to the associated services voluntarily.

There are US and EU initiatives, specifying the minimum accuracy with which it should be possible to locate mobile phones:

  • The US E911 initiative demands mobile phone-based location-detection with 50m accuracy for 67% of calls and 150m accuracy for 95% of calls. This is in connection with 911 calls made to the emergency services but the effect is that all mobile phones will be locatable all the time. The FCC's E911 directive was phased in, with different deadlines for different operators and different technologies, with the final deadline being 31 December 2005.
  • E112 is a European Union initiative similar to the US's E911.

There are several ways to locate mobile phones and the rival technologies are engaged in healthy competition.

© 2002-2007 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd