GSM Mobile Phone Location Based Services - tracking children and vulnerable adults - Code of Practice announced but not yet public

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According to Saturday's report in The Guardian newspaper, there is now a Code of Practice regarding GSM Mobile Phone Location Based Services.

"The code of practice has been drawn up by the five British mobile networks in conjunction with the Home Office, police and children's charities. It also allows firms to sell services based on data that locates the position of a mobile user"

We have been worried about these, especially the ones aimed specifically at tracking Childrean or vulnerable adults e.g. old people with Alzheimer's disease etc. for over a year now.

Our worry, and that of children's charities is that these Mobile Phone tracking services are not very secure, and could be exploited by stalkers, kidnappers etc. c.f. our "Security and Child Safety concerns over the ChildLocate Mobile Phone Tracking Service"

Our fears remain, given a number of breaches of security that we are aware of at the companies qwhich run these services, and the inherent technical insecurity of Mobile Phone Short Message Service, which is not secure enough for minor financial transactions using a credit card, let alone secure enough to protect a vulnerable child or adult from evil people.

We are also sceptical about just how accurate these GSM Location Based Services are away from the major cities, where the density of Mobile Phone Cell transmitters can mean that, as was shown in the notorious Soham murders case, the Location revealed by a mobile phone can easily be misleadingly inaccurate by several kilometres, 8 kilometres (5 miles) in the Soham case, and potentialy up to 35 kilometres - a disaster for anybody conducting a search for a missing child.

We look forward to reading the Code of Practice, which does not yet seem to be available online, as we have several questions, e.g.

  • Does the COP also apply to 3GPP phones as well as GSM ones ?
  • What is the minimum frequency of SMS messages revealing that a particular phone is being tracked ?
  • Are these reminder messages sent at fixed times or randomly ?
  • Is the use of SSL/TLS session encryption for the web site mapping and SMS message sending side of the operations mandatory ?
  • How frequent are Independent Security Audits of these tracking systems ?
  • Have all the technical staff who have privilged access to the details and locations of children been checked as if they were employed in a school, via the Criminal Records Bureau ?
  • What sanctions are there to enforce this Code of Practice ? Or is this just another toothless "Press Complaints Commission" type sop to the public ?

Email us or leave a comment here if you have access to a copy of the Code of Practice, which does not currently appear on the industry regulatory body Ofcom, or the Home Office or the Mobile Phone Network corporate websites.

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41 Comments

We have had a major breakdown with the vodaphone gsm link in kent which has been off air for the whole weekend.
This shows how vunerable the system is to deliberate malicious damage as well as techinical breakdowns.This when people or children are trying to be tracked.There is no backup system and I would not want myself to be tracked anyway.

Its apparent that the less masts around the less they are able to tri-angulate one's position.

its time to haul out the tin foil or keep our mobile phones off, when not in use.

It is now a week since this "Code of Practice" is alleged to have been released, but it still does not appear on the industry regulator's website www.ofcom.org.uk, and a phone call to Ofcom only elicits denials and "nothing to do with us" excuses.

How can the public be expected to judge if these Location Based Services are safe to use use, if the so called Code of Practice which is supposed to regulate them is only published in secret ?

I would like to equip my 3 years old boy with a tracking device. I am terrified of him being abducted.
Please advise

I was told that there was a website which was able to track people without their consent - not surprisingly it was shut down after 2 days. I'm currently doing research into this subject and wondered if anyone had any details for it.

i am disabled and my 13 year old girl go's to school 15 miles from home.
i think this tracking thing is a very good idear i can lockate her now and know she is safe.
there should be one free service that the guverment should pay for in sercamstances where there are disabled adult or children involved or children with behaveya problems.
i have found one site that will not let you track a child under 16 without a letter being sent to the home address first or if its an adalt phone they send a sms to the owner of the phone at the start to grant pomition to track it

Which of the various Mobile Phone Location Based Services (LBS) do you use ? Not all of them are equal, and some of them are distinctly dodgy.

How often do you actually check the location of the phone ?

Has this LBS reduced the number of times that you actually make a voice call or send an SMS message to the phone to check that your 13 year old is ok, or the number of times that she contacts you ?

All that you really "know" is the approximate location of the phone, not that whoever is meant to be still carrying the phone is actually safe.

How do you know that all the staff working within the Location Based Services company, who also have access to your child's location data, have been vetted through even the minimal checks done by the Criminal Records Bureau, which are a prerequisite these days for even par-time school staff or volunteers ?

If a company offering LBS only sends a "this phone is being tracked" SMS message when you sign up for the service, and if they do not send one whenever a phone is added or removed from a pool or fleet of phones arrangement (often used by companies for business phones), and at frequesnt random times thereafter, then there is a real risk of the phone being tracked by unknown stalkers or criminals.

Unfortunately LBS is seen first and foremost as a revenue generating stream by the Mobile Phone Networks, and they do not reduce their SMS charges for such confirmation SMS, therefore, any LBS provider company will only send as few of them as they can get away with, to maximise their slim profit margins.

The Government cannot run its Electronic Tagging of criminals schemes properly (it costs about £85 a day per tag !), let alone a much larger scheme involving vulnerable adults and children.

You would have expected the Mobile Phone Industry Regulator, Ofcom, to have been involved in the Code of Practice mentioned above, but they have denied any involvement in it, confirmed by a Freedom of Information Act Request, but they did point us to what appears to be an unofficial copy of it, presumably not intended for publication per se, on the website of a telecomms software development company.

http://www.spy.org.uk/foia/archives/foia_requests_in_progress/location_based_services_code_of_practice/index.html

can anyone please inform me of a free service to trace mobile phone numbers to a specific location or area? i would appretiate any information at all, please e-mail me anderson_blade@yahoo.com
thanks

"a free service to trace mobile phone numbers to a specific location or area" ?

Why should any such service be legal under data protection, anti-stalking or national security laws ??

Why would anyone pay to set one up ? What would be in it for them ?

Free services tend to be either loss leaders for chargable value added services or supported by advertising. So the business model is as follows:

For free we will tell you the approximate position of your employee (who should be working), husband (who should be home for tea) or child (who should be in school). Or anyone elses for that matter.

As a value added service we will work out which pub or golf course your employee is visiting, which house of ill repute your husband is requenting and which off licence your child is sniffing glue outside of. For your standard text message charge you can harrass them to get back to work/home/school.

As an advertising supported service we can provide the number of a solicitor specialising in employment/divorce/defending claims for stalking and invasion of privacy.

Of course none of this would be legal but since when has that every stopped anyone.

I have received several nasty voice meassages and texts from some foreigner using a UK cell phone. How can I track his number and find out who he is?

Every mobile phone network operator has a malicious calls complaints procedure - what does yours say ?

Caller ID , as a service, is often withheld or not available for international calls, but if there are criminal threats, then the networks can look up Call Data Records which give cell phone location information etc. However this is not a routine matter for international calls not involving serious crimes.

I suggest keeping a log of these incidents, including date/time, text of SMS messages and if your phone supports it, a recording of voice messages/conversations. Complain to your teleco and the police.

If you can get the police interested (they might decide it's too trivial to bother - "it's a civil matter Sir") they will approach your teleco's 'single point of contact' for law enforcement data requests.

If the originating phone is using a UK network then caller id is likely to be available from your teleco, even if withheld with 141. This might not help much if it's an unregistered pay-as-you-go phone.

The legislation is the Protection from Harrassment Act 1997 and the Telecommunications Act 1984. If the police are disinterested you might have to spell out the exact offence to them.

my girl friend is getting these text msg from a stranger and they r real offensive any way to track them coz the police r no help.giveitten@hotmail.co.uk

i want to know about the unknown caller's location (incoming voice call from a GSM mobile phone)

i want to know about the unknown caller's location (text messages from a GSM mobile phone)

You could try a Data Protection Act subject access request, and see if you get the callers cell ids. You'll then have to work out where the cells are.
Sitefinder might help.

You really shouldn't be able to get other peoples locations without their consent. The proper course of action if you are a victim of malicious calls/texts is to complain to the proper authorities ie the police and your teleco.

i have received several malicious phone calls but when i received the first one the person actually forgot to hide their mobile phone number as they sounded drunk. I think i know who it is but i can't be sure. How can i find the address of this person before involving the police.

very good idea gives peace of mind

Hi i am in need of a legal way to track down mobile numbers so plz email me

can you find out where a call was made from when you dont have the callers nuber ofthere mobile and dates it rang your mobile

Can you track your kids cellphones without them knowing as often them finding out would defeat the objective? Thanks

@ Shar - if the object is child safety, then allowing anyone to track their phones in secret puts those children at greater risk from kidnappers and sexual predators etc.

Is that really possibe to findout location of unknown mobile phone? I would like to try this.

I have received several unknow calls . How can I track his number and find out who he is

my son has lost his phone someone is using it can we trace it free

@ paul - hopefully that is not possible, otherwise any criminal or stalker or terrorist etc. could make use of the same facility to arbitrarily track their targets' mobile phone locations.

In theory, to sign up to a commercial Location Based Service you should have to reply to a sign up SMS text message i.e. you need to do this before you lose your phone, and it will not, of course, be free.

If "someone is using it", and they refuse to give it back, when you call the number, then they have stolen the phone.

If you can prove that it really is your or your son's phone, by knowing details of recent calls, recent phone bills, recent credit top up transactions etc, you should be able to get the phone blocked by the network.

I wonder if ther is a way to know who is calling to my wife to her mobile, I want to know who is it?

I am very egar to use this service.

Is that really possibe to findout location of unknown mobile phone? I would like to try this.

hi im in need of help in finding out where i can find a tracking system for someone harassing me constant and the same for my girlfriend i changed my phone three times now and i dont know how they keep getting my new number police wont do anything about it please can someone help.........

someone keeps calling me from athe number 07769671326 can i find out ohw it is

Has anyone tried the website http://www.mobilelocators.com. It claims to be able to track up to 50 metre accuracy

hi can any one help me i want to trace my girlfriends incoming or outgoing voice calls and how to do that plzzzzzzz

@ krish - what gives you the right to try to invade her privacy ?


Your mobile phone operator can tell you the exact location of the cell phone the last time it was used. When I had my phone stolen, O2 were able to tell me the mobile number of the simcard that was now in my handset and where it was last used.

Hi, can you tell me if you can track a lost fone witha pay as you go sim in. Thanks. Or can any one track this fone.Would fodafone be able to track it.

How is tracking your childs phone going to stop an abductor. If these people know that parents are now going to be using tracing phones sthen the first thing they will do is off the phone out of theri seedy van window.

How to send text and How to copy the code of hand set and use many mobile phones but one number? EG: Kyaw Kyaw using 095149937
Zaw Zaw 095149937. How can I make copy of mobile phone.

Plz reply me.

please help.... my younger sister has been recieving vile messages it seems from an older man about what he would like to do to her and that he would like to meet her after school, when we looked at the number it came up as my mums? my sister never has credit but she can still text this person back? can this person have hijacked my mums phone via bluetooth to talk to my sister and is there any way of finding out who this person is? please help me.... my email address is taraleanda@hotmail.co.uk

@ tara - You cannot prove exactly who or how old someone is who apparently sends a text message - it may not be from whom you suspect.

Depending on the seriousness of the messages, you may have to get the Police involved.

If someone was stalking your mother's phone, it might ne possible to use BlueTooth to send the messages, provided that it is one of the phones which are vulnerable to BlueTooth attacks (not all are) and that BlueTooth is actually switched on.

If such an attack had been successful, that might explain how the sender of the message had your sister's phone number, as the attacker would probably have had full access to the list of contacts stored in the phone.

However, without using extended range antennas or signal boosting equipment, any BlueTooth attacks would have to be done in fairly close proximity i.e. 10 metres or so. If someone is that close, they may also have the opportunity for actual physical access to your mother's phone.

It is also possible to fake the caller-id which an SMS text message appears to come from, so far as what is displayed in the receiving handset.

What you should do is contact your sister's mobile phone network abuse help line, using her actual phone as proof of identity, and they should easily be able to confirm if the messages are really being sent from her mother's phone or not.

Hopefully, however, they will not just give out any personal details of the phone number which was really sending the messages, since that would be a method for invading innocent people's privacy
simply by social engineering the help line operators with a convincing story.

"my sister never has credit but she can still text this person back?"

That rather depends on the particular price plan from the mobile network , many of them offer a certain number of free text messages or have a credit överdraught facility for say an hour's talk etc. even when you have nominally run out of credit.

If you are worried by these messages, then report them to the Police.



@ heinhtet - that is possible, but you will have to give some more details about exactly what you are trying to do,

If what you want to do is not to be tracked and traced by the Burmese military dictatorship then send us an email, ideally using our PGP encryption key

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HosReport - "Crisis. Conspiraciones. Enigmas. Conflictos. Espionaje." - Carlos Eduardo Hos (in Spanish)

"Give 'em hell Pike!" - Frank Fisher

Corruption-free Anguilla - Good Governance and Corruption in Public Office Issues in the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla in the West Indies - Don Mitchell CBE QC

geeklawyer - intellectual property, civil liberties and the legal system

PJC Journal - I am not a number, I am a free Man - The Prisoner

Charlie's Diary - Charlie Stross

The Caucus House - blog of the Chicago International Model United Nations

Famous for 15 Megapixels

Postman Patel

The 4th Bomb: Tavistock Sq Daniel's 7:7 Revelations - Daniel Obachike

OurKingdom - part of OpenDemocracy - " will discuss Britain’s nations, institutions, constitution, administration, liberties, justice, peoples and media and their principles, identity and character"

Beau Bo D'Or blog by an increasingly famous digital political cartoonist.

Between Both Worlds - "Thoughts & Ideas that Reflect the Concerns of Our Conscious Evolution" - Kingsley Dennis

Bloggerheads: The Alisher Usmanov Affair - the rich Uzbek businessman and his shyster lawyers Schillings really made a huge counterproductive error in trying to censor the blogs of Tim Ireland, of all people.

Matt Wardman political blog analysis

Henry Porter on Liberty - a leading mainstream media commentator and opinion former who is doing more than most to help preserve our freedom and liberty.

HMRC is shite - "dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of the HMRC, who have to endure the monumental shambles that is Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)."

Head of Legal - Carl Gardner a former legal advisor to the Government

The Landed Underclass - Voice of the Banana Republic of Great Britain

Henrik Alexandersson - Swedish blogger threatened with censorship by the Försvarets Radioanstalt (FRA), the Swedish National Defence Radio Establishement, their equivalent of the UK GCHQ or the US NSA.

World's First Fascist Democracy - blog with link to a Google map - "This map is an attempt to take a UK wide, geographical view, of both the public and the personal effect of State sponsored fear and distrust as seen through the twisted technological lens of petty officials and would be bureaucrats nationwide."

Blogoir - Charles Crawford - former UK Ambassodor to Poland etc.

No CCTV - The Campaign against CCTV

Barcode Nation - keeping two eyes on the database state.

Lords of the Blog - group blog by half a dozen or so Peers sitting in the House of Lords.

notes from the ubiquitous surveillance society - blog by Dr. David Murakami Wood, editor of the online academic journal Surveillance and Society

Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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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