Met Police routinely spying on Londoners with fake phone towers, investigation claims

Could you recognise a modern mobile phone mast?

Do you know what a modern mobile phone mast looks like?

It’s quite possible that you haven’t noticed their current form. They are no longer pylon-like structures with an array of satellite dishes clustered round the top. Instead, they’ve morphed into dreary poles with no distinguishing features, and they’re hiding in plain sight, camouflaged by dullness.

A quick search on Ofcom’s Mobile Phone Basestation Database shows that there are in fact eight phone masts on the road the LondonlovesBusiness.com office is on, which is news to us. We’re surrounded. And it’s the same all over London.

If the quiet proliferation of inconspicuous phone masts sounds vaguely alarming, then this won’t be helped by research by Sky News, which indicates that many phone masts are fake, and are being used to scoop up data from the phones of unsuspecting passers-by.

Working with a German security company called GMSK Cryptophone, (great name by the way), Sky claims to have unearthed direct evidence of the existence of at least 20 fake phone masts.

Known as “Stingray boxes”, the technology is believed to be used to track police suspects.

They work by mimicking legitimate phone masts, connecting to all the mobiles in the vicinity, but they then pick up the international mobile subscriber number (IMSI) and electronic serial number (ESN), which can be used to give the precise location of the phone.

Mobile phone mast modern

A modern mobile phone mast

The Met Police have done little to defuse suspicion over the fake phone towers, refusing to deny their existence.

Speaking to Sky News, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said: “We’re not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing.”

Stingray. Cryptophone. Basestation database. This is the Newspeak we must learn if we are to navigate the dystopia of today.

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