Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A 111 app is a police backdoor

Today in Question Time the Minister of Communications proudly talked about her plans for a new 111 Smartphone app. The point of this app would be to allow people making 111 calls on smartphones to be located by GPS. But while I agree that's beneficial, given the way that apps invade privacy and are exploited, it seems like a backdoor for police.

The press release says it will only provide location information when a 111 call is made. But we have no guarantee that that will be true. Meanwhile, any information it gathers can be accessed by police either under existing information-sharing arrangements with the 111 service, or via a production order - the latter of which requires no evidence of serious crime, and which is used for spying on drunk drivers and journalists who offend the Prime Minister.

And of course if you have to give it permission to use your phones microphone - a requirement if it is to be used to make 111 calls - then it effectively turns your phone into a mobile police bug. And because you ticked the "I agree" box, they'll argue that you consented.

(And even if none of this functionality is in the initial release, remote update means it could be added at any time...)

Only a complete fool would agree to install such an app. When it is eventually released, I would not recommend using it. If you need to call 111, just dial it rather than consenting to a total invasion of your privacy.