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Bluetooth Surveillance Tested In the UK 85

Posted by kdawson
from the turn-the-darn-thing-off dept.
KentuckyFC writes "If you live in the city of Bath in the UK and carry a Bluetooth-enabled device, your movements may have been secretly monitored in an experiment designed to test surveillance techniques in prisons. Researchers from Bath University recorded the movements of 10,000 Bluetooth-enabled devices during their 6-month trial. They say the experiment was a test of a technique for monitoring the interactions between prisoners in jail that could be used to work out which inmates have become closely associated. The work was prompted by revelations that the Madrid train bombers who devastated the city in 2004 first met in a Spanish prison (abstract)."
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Bluetooth Surveillance Tested In the UK

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  • by advocate_one (662832) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @02:42PM (#23161818)
    expect civil liberties to really hit the roof over this one... whatever happened to the right of free association?
    • by gnick (1211984) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @03:06PM (#23162212) Homepage

      mandatory bluetooth collars next???
      Yes. The obvious next step to analysis of open-air traffic is electronic tagging and tracking of free citizens. Of course, that will just be to get us to drop our guard while they prepare to implant their dream-recorders to preemptively stop terror by arresting us for thought crime.

      Want to buy some tin-foil? Your head looks cold.
      • for prisoners, they will be implanted with double-inner-outer sphincter gateway THRESH HOLDS to determine which have conjugal relationships that might INspire acts of violets, ummm, violence outside the walls of the pre-sons.

        Now, we need to come up with a new ANAL LOGGY for "You've got BLING AROUND THE CALLER". Does that make the prison "bitch" a fish, a thresher, or a threshing fish?

        Hmm, that only shows who's being conjugated UPON. So, maybe the guards and administrators need them, too. Bluepoo Chastity De
    • by owlnation (858981) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @03:08PM (#23162244)

      expect civil liberties to really hit the roof over this one... whatever happened to the right of free association?
      You do not, and never have had that right in the UK. It's just that until recently it was rarely enforced.

      It's already too late. The sun is setting on democracy in the UK.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        It's already too late. The sun is setting on democracy in the UK.
        Heh.
        You let me know when they do something about that hereditary monarchy.

        Just because the monarch doesn't exercise a lot of their powers, it doesn't mean they aren't there.
        • by malsdavis (542216)
          The British people can have a monarch if they want, who are you to decide their form of governance? Britain was a republic for several decades during the 1600's before deciding to reinstate their monarch.

          Personally, I'd rather a king I trusted and who had his realm's best interests in mind then a bunch of corrupt politicians willing to change laws for whichever companies 'donate' to their campaign fund.
          • >>>"the 1600's before deciding to reinstate their monarch."

            I don't think they "decided" to reinstall the monarch. The ruling class decided they didn't want the "mob" taking-away their power, and so they killed the republic on purpose, despite protests from the people.

            BTW:

            People keep talking about democracy. Democracy is simply "tyranny of the majority to squash the minority underfoot". A republic that protects the individual's rights & is ruled by the law (not a king or a parliament) is a be
        • by xaxa (988988)
          While the monarchy continue to do things like:
          - say funny things that the media can laugh at ("Nanotechnology will turn the world to grey goo!")
          - give advice to the Prime Minister (who all say their weekly meeting with the Queen is very useful -- after all, she's been in international and domestic politics for at least 50 years)
          - bring together all the countries of the Commonwealth, which includes e.g. Canada and Austrialia, but also a lot of small countries that otherwise would be pretty obscure
          Then I thin
    • Who needs a mandatory collar? 90% of the population has a cell phone glued to their ear anyway. And they already have a unique identifier, mandatory GPS (for your protection of course), and most(if user is the owner with account) are linked to all your other information like SSN and Address.

      Which give all your financial information (credit reporting companies and banks, thanks FCRA and Patriot Act).

      And is also already linked to all your medical information (MIB)

      And soon, to your Google genetic pred
    • by goldaryn (834427)

      whatever happened to the right of free association?
      Whither, Timmy Mallett?
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @02:43PM (#23161852)
    This project is going to discover that the GUARDS have contact with prisoners that go on to commit crimes.

    Prisoner-A and Prisoner-B commit a terrorist act of child pornography and BOTH of those prisoners will have had contact with Guard-C in Prison-D. Therefore, every other prisoner who had contact with Guard-C is a potential terrorist child pornographer.

    Really. That's all that you're going to find from this. This is a waste of money.
  • by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @02:44PM (#23161858) Journal
    Tracking prisoners? With Bluetooth devices? Horseshit.

    RFID is a far better choice - it's passive (no batteries) and it's cheap. I bet the purpose of Bluetooth tracking is to track non-imprisoned people.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wattrlz (1162603)
      If you're going to broadcast your music, your cell phone conversations, and whatever other data people transfer by bluetooth to anyone in a ten meter radius I don't see why you should be so up in arms about someone happening to receive and record that information.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BlueshiftVFX (1158033)
        If you're going to broadcast your television programs, and whatever other data people transfer by satellite to anyone in the whole continent I don't see why you should be so up in arms about someone happening to receive and record that information.

        The problem is the Corporations don't like it and they have more power then a bunch of un-herded sheep. Together the sheep have the power but with so many rumours and misinformation it's easier to divide and conquer them then the few CEOs that hold all the power o
        • Satellite providers try to stop you.
          Its also easy to stop with Bluetooth.

          Whats your point?
    • The tracking algorithims would be the same, abit with a different input.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well, if they're not testing the sensors, but are actually testing the software that calculates the associations between ppl, then using it on an unknowning population who are already broadcasting is a good test. Wether it's bluetooth or rfid is really irelevant, you can plug in any type of sensor that can distinguish that an individual is in range.
    • I know it's bad form to RTFA, but, FTA:

      Their idea? Fit inmates with RFID tags that allow their positions to be monitored, and then number crunch the resulting data sets to see who spends the most time with whom.
    • RFID is a far better choice - it's passive (no batteries) and it's cheap.
      and causes cancer [slashdot.org]
  • So I guess Britain's not even pretending anymore that there's a difference between free people and imprisoned criminals.

    Who wants to bet that this data will be subpoenaed in a case in the future?
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Who wants to bet that this data will be subpoenaed in a case in the future?
      And stored on a DVD, laptop or external drive that ends up gone missing. (again) [bbc.co.uk]
    • by Macthorpe (960048)
      There were so many things wrong with that comment that I'm struggling to pick a place to start.

      Let's start with the fact that you subpeonas don't exist in the UK, to the fact that the research was carried about by students and not the government. We'll then move on to the fact that the ideas of 2 non-entity university students does not represent the opinions of 60 million British citizens as you seem to think. Then, we'll finish with the assertion that your comment is a nonsensical knee-jerk reaction to a c
      • by Valdrax (32670) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @04:11PM (#23163066)
        Right, right. Apparently, they're called "witness summons" now for people, though I have no idea what you call subpoena duces tecum nowadays. I'm sure that you have some procedure for compelling potential witnesses to a crime to appear and present documents -- like this data.

        While two university students don't represent your whole population, the tolerance you people have of being watched by cameras all day does. Frankly, I find your countrymen somewhat distubring for supporting 24/7 pervasive surveillance.

        And it's not a non-issue. It's a demonstration of a technique to track the coming and goings of non-criminal citizens for the purpose of determining who they associate with. So what if they claim the ultimate goal is tracking actual prisoners? They've demonstrated a far more useful purpose for it for a nanny state. Can you not imagine the utility this would have in tracking down members of protest groups? This is so much easier to sort through than video footage.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Macthorpe (960048)

          Right, right. Apparently, they're called "witness summons" now for people, though I have no idea what you call subpoena duces tecum nowadays. I'm sure that you have some procedure for compelling potential witnesses to a crime to appear and present documents -- like this data.

          The presenting of data which was legally gained to a court of law is not an invasion of privacy. There's nothing personally identifiable in the data they've collected, so it would be challenging to actually link this to a potential crime.

          While two university students don't represent your whole population, the tolerance you people have of being watched by cameras all day does. Frankly, I find your countrymen somewhat distubring for supporting 24/7 pervasive surveillance.

          Good combination of exagerration and an absolutely ridiculous generalisation that isn't substantiated by a single fact. I'm going to hazard a guess that you only get your information about the UK and security issues from Slashdot articles, which is a pretty sure-fire way

          • by Valdrax (32670)

            The presenting of data which was legally gained to a court of law is not an invasion of privacy.

            I assume that you're hinging that argument on a rather self-reflexive definition of "legally gained?" i.e. If it's legal it's not an invasion of privacy because privacy is only a legal term?

            I think most people would disagree. By that standard, anything the government approves of isn't a violation of your rights.

            There's nothing personally identifiable in the data they've collected, so it would be challenging to actually link this to a potential crime.

            Doesn't mean that it's not a potential target for a fishing expedition. If you find out that a criminal used a Bluetooth phone in the area, then it sounds like fair game to me if you think they

    • These radio signals are floating round a public space, exactly what is wrong with this? If you don't like it, read your phone's manual.
      • by tattood (855883)
        Agreed. I always turn off bluetooth on my laptop and phone unless I am actually using it. The only time I use bluetooth on my phone is if I am going to be driving a long distance and do not want to fiddle with holding the phone if I get a call.
      • by Valdrax (32670)
        Yes, it's fixable. That doesn't mean it wasn't a scandalous disregard for the privacy of private citizens by a bunch of people doing research under a government grant.

        (And one for urban design and pervasive systems -- not for anything having to do with correctional facilities. Odd, that.)
  • As if people up to this sort of nefarious thing would carry bluetooth devices, or use non-disposable cell phones.....

    Obviously prisons are a poor solution to the "undesirable waste persons" created by our economic system.

    Perhaps more resources should go into fixing the socio-economic situation that drives the behavior that gets people into the prisons....
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CogDissident (951207)
      If anything, a criminal would carry a bluetooth spoofer. All it has to do is capture the signal of another bluetooth device, and just broadcast it as your own.

      Maybe even set it up so you press a button, and it randomly picks another bluetooth signal nearby and starts broadcasting that one. Would entirely defeat the system, and cost maybe 20$ and a bit of time at radioshack.
      • But, where are they going to hide a bluetooth spoofer during a strip search?

        Oh, wait, it's a prison... never mind, sorry I asked.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      The work was prompted by revelations that the Madrid train bombers who devastated the city in 2004 first met in a Spanish prison

      Obviously prisons are a poor solution to the "undesirable waste persons" created by our economic system.


      No, they do their job well. A pot farmer goes to prison and learns how to rape children and bomb trains. As far as teh government is concerned, growing pot is far worse than rape and murder.

      It's a matter of a government's priorities.
  • Why not giving cellphones to the prisoners?
    I mean, what kind of devices you give to prisoners so they are not able to hack and communicate without being close to each other?
  • What does the case study prove really? Only that prisoners talk to other prisoners. I fail to see how this proves intent.

    Sure while in prison a prisoner may talk to someone who may have ties to a terrorist organization. But if/when they get out and they do not commit terrorist acts, the hours spent on tracking him would be for not.
    • Yeah but you can see if new groups form, remember if your in jail then you've already lost your liberties, so they're free to watch you as much as they want in there.
    • by azadrozny (576352)
      You are correct. I don't believe that it would show intent; however it could reveal networks in the making. If John and Mark have no known ties to each other, but are observed spending an abnormal amount of time together, you could reasonably infer that they have become friends. It does not mean that if John is a known terrorist that Mark will become one too. But it could be useful information in the future, so if Mark were to be found with a trunk full of explosives, you could investigate John, to see
  • If you live in the UK, (especially London) you know your movements are being monitored - there's a bloody video camera every 12 feet.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      We have a few here, too. Unfortunately they never got around to posting the "big brother is watching" posters here in the US.
    • I wonder if anyone has thought of tagging prison uniforms with a machine readable prisoner ID? I guess prisons have vast numbers of cameras and microphones, you could hook them up to a computers and track people without any bluetooth bug. You could split the communal areas into smaller units and make the prisoners show their machine readable prisoner ID to enter.

      It'll be good preparation for the world of work even if you don't get any useful information.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by owlnation (858981)

      If you live in the UK, (especially London) you know your movements are being monitored - there's a bloody video camera every 12 feet.
      Not just London -- everywhere in the UK. There's nearly 5 million of the things. So all you have to do is match up the video to the bluetooth signal from the (easily traceable by bank details or credit card) mobile phone. So if you have a hoodie or a baseball cap on, then they still know who you are (or whose phone you've stolen).
      • by xaxa (988988)

        If you live in the UK, (especially London) you know your movements are being monitored - there's a bloody video camera every 12 feet.

        Not just London -- everywhere in the UK. There's nearly 5 million of the things.

        5 million? How many cameras can one person monitor? Most of them aren't monitored, and aren't even looked at unless a crime is reported.

        I don't mind when they're clearly used for finding a criminal: there's an assault in a station and the criminal is on CCTV. Fine.

        When they're used to track people that's a different matter (e.g. person X being detected automatically in places X, Y and Z: investigate further). AFAIK nothing like that is happening.

  • .. the tracking feature in your current cell phone? The nature of "Cells" enables device tracking.. Thats how it works.. Cells monitor and could record differential signal strength and plot your movements easily. Even with the tracking feature "disabled" I; for one welcome ....
  • Newsflash: Broadcasting a signal to anyone in range is a very easy way to get yourself tracked.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Plutonite (999141)
      Well yes of course, but let's not assume that lack of tech familiarity is justification for getting 1984-ed by the benign government. I can't believe the general public is being used as testing grounds for civil rights abuses in jails. It's very funny if you think about it. It's also the scariest thing the big brothers in the UK have come up with in a long time.
  • What about battery life issues? and the devices may be used as a weapon as prisoners are very good with tuning just about anything into one.
  • Unrelated to the article....Where the hell are our Bluetooth Star Trek combadges? Hmmm? I mean, really, how farking hard can this be?

    -A PC is set up as a "server" station.

    -Off The Shelf earpieces are paired up to the bluetooth dongle.

    -Server keeps a record of what's paired to it.

    -Remote PC's act as access points that check with the main machine to see what earpieces are paired to the system and who they are assigned to for symbolic link purposes.

    In my quasi-clued brain, I can see the outline for a locater s
  • While this seems like a dirty Big Brother thing to do, and something that many Americans would think that are government would never do, I wouldn't put it past the US to do just that. In their defense, why not? If they are _truly_ doing it for the better good (prisons, terrorist tracking, etc), is it really all that bad? You cant devise a better test case scenario... Some food for thought anyway. I have pretty strong opinions for both sides on something like this.
  • Bluetooth is so secure anyway... they're no way they could exploit it... /ROFL
  • These guys are going about it all wrong. Just come up with a child safety angle and your shit's gold, winston!
  • It was a crime school. I went in with a Bachelor of marijuana, came out with a Doctorate of cocaine.
  • It certainly hasn't been secret - the project was made available as a facebook app, so you could track your whereabouts, and see who you hung out with most often (pretty shitty stuff, but still...) I would bet that most of the data weren't even collected by Bath University themselves, but by third party "hotspots" who thought it was a cool idea.

    I reckon I first encountered the Facebook app about a year ago. Also, if you're wandering round with your Bluetooth on, someone seeing where you are is probably abo
  • The author forgets to mention that the website of the research group [cityware.org.uk], which you think might be somewhat relevant. I'm a student at Bath. I'm not connected with the research, but I have attended (highly secret) public seminars where they talk about their work, and it isn't evil or secret or somehow going to lead to the end of humanity as we know it. They are a group of computer scientists with vague, fluffy ideas about how they can understand people by logging bluetooth device interactions. The network of
  • After a quick read of the paper, it seems like another use for data collected in a similar way to their Cityware project (although there's no mention of data being shared between the two, they seem to use similar techniques to log bluetooth device encounters).

    The crux of their argument seems to be "you can infer personal relationships by looking at which people spend time together in different places," along with a lot of stuff about how the raw data can be analysed to discern this. I can see how this could
  • The 2004/03/11 Madrid train bombings killed almost two hundred people, mostly commuters. Bombs exploded while trains where stopped at stations, but didn't produce many material losses. So the "devastation" was only human and animical.
  • Bluetooth phones can be set to function in 'hidden' mode. Doing this makes the phone visible only to another paired Bluetooth device. A paired device is one that you trust and connect to frequently-say your headset or laptop. Pairing also requires a shared key for encryption. I always operate bluetooth in hidden mode when I need it (typically i use the headset while driving), and I turn it off when not needed to conserve battery power.

    How is this a problem? Keep your bluetooth turned off when you're not usi

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