Blunkett's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" satellite tracking pilot

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"Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" so called satellite tracking plans

Blair and Blunkett blamed the "permissive 1960s" , when launching their communist style "5 year plan" on crime earlier this summer.

However, they still seem to be emulating Harold Wilson's "white heat of technology" with off the cuff political soundbites with. no actual clue about technology or how to implement it, or even what exactly they are trying to achieve with it, apart from getting re-elected.

Home Office Press release "Eye in the Sky Launched to Monitor Offenders"

Media Disinformation

What is so difficult to understand about Global Positioning Satellite tracking technology that the media seem to be conducting a deliberate campaign of disinformation about it ?

We thought that only The Times (despite being owned by the Murdoch media empire, which includes Sky and other actual satellite TV broadcasters) had slipped up in its explanation of the technology, but they have now repeated their previous disinformation::

"Eye in the sky tracks child sex offenders"
By Richard Ford, Home Correspondent

"The satellite can tell where a person has been during a given period, when a person is approaching an area from which he is excluded and monitor individual movements.

It works by placing an ankle bracelet on a subject, and linking it electronically to a mobile tracking device clipped to his belt. The device will send signals to the satellite, allowing the offender's movement to be monitored. "

This misinformation seems to have infected the BBC with the meme of technological ignorance as well.

"How tracking of offenders works" especially this diagram which is fundamentally wrong, innacurrate and misleading.

They are still trying to give the impression that the electronic tags somehow magically transmit data up to the orbiting satellites, which then somehow communicates with the central control centre.

This is such utter rubbish - the satellites only transmit an accurate time signal from orbit around the Earth down to the GPS receivers, which do not act as satellite uplink stations at all, or pass any kind of elmessage to the central control centre at al, despite whats shown by the BBC illustration and as "explained" by the Times.

This is not a mere technical detail. but a fundamental misunderstanding which colours the rest of the so called reporting.

The TV reporters who gleefully strapped on electronic tags and walked around Manchester's Old Trafford Football Stadium helped to promote a false image of the accuracy and usefulness of the technology. Why did they not drive around in a closed panel van, with no line of sight to the 4 GPS satellites needed for a position fix ?

Exclusion zones
Even if the technology really was accurate in practice as the hype claims, which, based on our pratical experience with GPS systems is extremely unlikely, how exactly are "exclusion zones" going to be defined ?

Will a persistant burglar be banned from being a certain distance (whatever that may be) from a domestic dwelling or commercial premises ? If this were actually enforced, then the system would be raising an alarm almost constantly.

Is it intended that an "exclusion zone" should cover just physical access or should it extend to the visual reconnaisance area afforded by telescopes, binoculars, camera zoom lenses etc ?

What evidence is there that the often quoted "school playgrounds" have ever been the prime location for child sex abuse ? None whatsover.Will the schools in the "protected" areas be informed of any "exclusion zone violations" or will the Government keep these secret ?

The Home Office is silent on these and other questions, and the suspicion must be that they have not actually formulated a policy, whilst wasting at least ?3 million of our money on this "white heat of technology" soundbite project.

Opposition politicians and the media (with the honourable exception of The Register, which is, unfortunately, not mainstream media) have let down the public by not asking any of these questions.

40 tags per area x 3 areas = 120 tags ?

No, not quite.

There do not seem to be 120 offenders all lined up and ready to participate in this alleged "technology pilot", since the courts will have to impose exclusion orders etc., so the weasel words "up to 120" over a year could actually be significantly fewer.

If that is the case, then the cost per tagged offender under this "technology pilot" will rise above the ?25,000 per head that it looks as if it will cost at present.

One might assume that if the Home Office is paying ?1 million to each of the three fixed phone line electronic tag monitoring companies, to use US technology which they themselves are not supplying (some of them have rival tagging technology available),

The assumption is that they would divide the cake equally, but this cannot be the case, as each area has a different mix of offenders.

How many sex offenders and violent offenders will actually be monitored ?

We would argue that no offenders on the ViSOR (Violent or Sexual Offender Register) should be included in this pilot scheme - if they are a risk to the community, they should remain in prison.

Will the Home Secretary resign if one of the violent offenders breaks commits an offence whilst being electronically tagged ?

Careful reading of the Home Office Press release shows that sex offenders from the West Midlands or Hampshire will not actually be tracked. The whole of Greater Manchester is the trial area for sex offenders, not just Bolton, Salford, Tameside and Wigan which is the area for monitoring the persistant adult offenders.

This implies that there is likely to be only a handful of sex offenders who will be monitored as part of this pilot scheme, rather different from the headlines in the Times, the Daily Mail and other media which imply that the main category of offenders to be monitored in this trial and eventually in a national scheme would be sex offenders, which is patently untrue.

The Home Office seems to be planning to monitor some of the potentially dangerous offenders on the scheme (who should not actiually be on it at all) through the "passive" monitoring, which would give them a 24 hour head start if they chose to attack someone again, before an alarm is even raised, assuming that such attacks actually do happen in the alleged "no go zones".

Will the "hybrid" technology actually help "domestic violence" offenders to hunt down their victims in "battered women's refuges" ? The technology is designed to give an audible warning that an offender is approaching the boundary of a "no go zone".If the battered spouse is taking refuge, not at home, but at a friend or relatives home or in a battered women's shelter, will the Home Office or their sub-contractors programme in these as "no go zones" ?

What exactly is being tested ?

Why is the Home Office only testing one USA made brand of GPS tracking technology and not testing any UK products ?

Why are the different networks Mobile Phone Location Services not being compared ? They do not have equal coverage, which is needed to avoid reception blackspots etc.

The myth of "instant response" to alarms raised by the technology.

This is like Closed Circuit Televesion Cameras all over again. The impression given by the Home Office is that the technology is somehow magically linked to adequately staffed and funded rapid response teams of police or security guards etc. who will swoop into action within a few minutes of the CCTV/Electronic Tag etc technolgy raising an alarm, thereby foiling a crime in progress or at least giving immediate aid to a victim.

In fact we know this to be a myth, as is borne out by the recent murders in London, where CCTV coverage has acted as no deterrent at all to the criminals, and has been used to hunt down potential witnesses to crimes, despite them not actually having seen anything relevant at all.

This will be even more acute if, as is the case with electronic GPS tagging, the main reason for its introduction is an attempt to save money, at the expense of public safety, by releasing criminals into the community who would otherwise be in prison.

Commercial conflict of interest

How can private sector firms with existing and hoped for contracts to build and
run private prisons, actually be involved in a measure designed to reduce the prison population ?

Which is going to be more profitable to them ?

Is it worth the risk ?

Even if the technology works, there is no guarantee that the system to enforce it does.

The case of Lawrence Napper a convicted rapist, in Texas, who, despite still wearing the Pro Tech tracking technology, managed to rack up 440 "parole violations" and thrteen arrest warrants in 9 months, including returning to the supposed "no go zone" campus where he had commiteed the rape, and eventually was arrested for allegedly molesting a 6 year old boy.

He was not re-arrested and sent back to prison, because officials were trying to justify the "cost savings" of the tagging project, and sending too many people back to prison would have cast doubts on the cost effectiveness of the scheme, and presumably on their careers.

How can they make major decisions on the basis of such a small, short pilot project ?

Where are the independent analyses of how well the existing electronic tagging system, which uses fixed landline telephones to supposedly enforce curfews and house arrest ?

"The pilots will initially run for 12 months. After that the Government will decide whether to extend the use of tracking to the whole of England and Wales"

This "technology pilot" will not realistically test either the technology or the back end response systems in case of a detected "violation".

How can the Home Office justify making such a decision on the basis of such a small scale trial with a tiny number of offenders, less than 120 out of the 120,000 of offenders released from prison or the courts each year ?

Why is 12 months considered to be a suitable time period ? Presumably many of the offenders would need to be monitored for much longer periods than this ?

Why are there no plans for a larger scale pilot project before a full deployment is sanctioned ?

It would be criminally irresponsible for the Government to proceed with an extension of this form of electronic tagging and the consequent refusal to build and staff more prisons on the basis of this statistically meaningless project.

Opposition, what opposition ?

Unfortunately, the people who should be opposing Blunkett's plans also, also seem to be ignorant about this technology:

Liberty "no objections in principle".

Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Mark Oaten

"This technology could be a real step forward both for public protection and for public confidence in community sentences."

Conservative party Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve

"Mr Grieve said: "We welcome this and point out that the Conservative Party suggested the use of satellite technology to track convicted paedophiles back in 2002. We are glad the government is belatedly getting its act together."

3 Comments

It is a great shame that british companies cannot benfit from supplying technology and advice. Has a tender been issued for the supply and have all the avenues been explored. GSM is already outdated. Another scenario of the government doing its own blinkered blunkett thing. Geofencing around schools, nurseries, homes where offenders live, would be more effective and cheaper to run.

If the Government is to procure things and spend any significant amount of money in the process, it's obliged to tender under the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC) procedure which means basically that it's not allowed to restrict competition to UK firms or conduct its tendering process in a way that's biased towards them. In return our firms get to tender on a fair basis for other governments' contracts. A similar arrangment operates on a worldwide basis under global free trade agreements for participating nations. GPS is provided free by the US Geographical Service (USGS) and is now only restricted in accuracy in war zones. I thought the UK Government paid some small contribution - presumably for our military use, not civilian use which is free - but can't remember where I heard that.

Still not convinced that "Geofencing" or "exclusion zones" can be enforced properly against determined or desperate criminals, who would otherwise be in prison, rather than low risk
offenders, who already comply with their bail conditions without any electronic tagging.


There are exeptions to the OJEC procedures for "security".

There is also meant to be an Office of Government Commerce "Gateway" review of such projects, but the results of these are kept secret for "commercial confidentiality" reasons. Thhere is no need to publish detailed financial contracts, but the detailed project management requirements statements, project aims and objectives and overall disgn architecure should be available to the public, but isn't. Perhaps a Freedom of Information Act request might shed some more light on the alleged costs benefits of this project.

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers