This New York Times article alleges that the News of the World had access to mobile phone Location Data from the police for "nearly $500" a time.
This is yet another reason why access to Communications Data must no longer be allowed to be self authorised by the Police or Intelligence Agencies or other public bodies - there must be independent judicial permission on an individual case by case basis.
A censored Annual Report by the Interception of Communications Commissioner does not provide any reassurance to the public about the system of Communications Data Retention and snooping.
New York Times
By JOHN F. BURNS and JO BECKER
Published: July 11, 2011
(Page 2 of 2)
Separately, an inquiry by The New York Times, which included interviews with two former journalists at The News of the World, has revealed the workings of the illicit cellphone-tracking, which the former tabloid staffers said was known in the newsroom as "pinging." Under British law, the technology involved is restricted to law enforcement and security officials, requires case-by-case authorization, and is used mainly for high-profile criminal cases and terrorism investigations, according to a former senior Scotland Yard official who requested anonymity so as to be able to speak candidly.
According to Oliver Crofton, a cybersecurity specialist who works to protect high-profile clients from such invasive tactics, cellphones are constantly pinging off relay towers as they search for a network, enabling an individual's location to be located within yards by checking the strength of the signal at three different towers. But the former Scotland Yard official who discussed the matter said that any officer who agreed to use the technique to assist a newspaper would be crossing a red line.
"That would be a massive breach," he said.
A former show-business reporter for The News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help. Mr. Miskiw asked for the person's cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person's precise location in Scotland, Mr. Hoare said. Mr. Miskiw, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment.
A former Scotland Yard officer said the individual who provided the information could have been one of a small group entitled to authorize pinging requests, or a lower-level officer who duped his superiors into thinking that the request was related to a criminal case. Mr. Hoare said the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with Mr. Miskiw.
"I thought it was remarkable and asked him how he did it, and he said, 'It's the Old Bill, isn't it?' " he recalled, noting that the term is common slang in Britain for the police. "At that point, you don't ask questions," he said.
A second former editor at the paper backed Mr. Hoare's account. "I knew it could be done and that it was done," he said. Speaking on condition that his name be withheld, he said that another way of tracking people was to hack into their credit card details and determine where the last charge was made. He said this tactic yielded at least one major scoop, when The News of the World tracked down James Hewitt, a former army officer and lover of Princess Diana's, who had fled to Spain amid the media firestorm that followed the publication of his book about the affair.
Does the "Single Point of Contact" system for accessing Communications Data have a sufficiently robust audit trail to cross check when, where and by whom each of the thousands of mobile and landline phone numbers in Glen Mulcaire's (and other private investigators) already seized notes have been subjected to Communication Data demands ?
If the Rt Hon Sir Paul Kennedy, the Interception of Communications Commissioner does not investigate this scandal, he should resign, as there can be no public confidence in the office, whatsoever.
See RIPA: 2010 annual report of the Interception of Communications Commissioner, which like all the previous reports, is oblivious of any wrongdoing regarding Communications Data.
In order to try to restore public confidence , the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act should be amended with criminal penalties to discourage the abuse of Communications Data by individuals and organisations who have access to it.