Nov 11 2008

Irish Police ask Vodafone for Favour

Category: Security,TelecomsTeknovis @ 11:16 pm

I read an interesting article in The Irish Times over the weekend (but I was too busy to write about it then :o ) The article reports that the head of the Irish Police (known locally as Garda) has asked Vodafone Ireland to provide the Internet browsing details of all of its customers. Furthermore, he wants all of this information in real time! The full article is Garda chief asks mobile phone firm to retain web-browsing data. Apparently, Vodafone are being asked to do this as a “good citizen”, or as a small favour!

I think that this is a typical example of how things are often done in an unofficial way in Ireland, where the rules (or laws) are not seen to have any relevance! I can imagine the reported conversation between the Garda Commissioner and the Vodafone Representative:

Garda Commissioner: “Right lads – could you do us a favour? We need all the Internet browsing details of all your users in real-time.

Vodafone Representative: “Do you have a warrant for that?

Garda Commissioner: “Nah – don’t worry about warrants. Sure we are the Garda! That’ll be grand.

Although the article is not very clear, I think that the police want the full contents of every webpage that is viewed. It is a mystery why they want this information in real-time. In fact, it is a mystery to me why they want this information at all! Surely a targeted approach (with warrants) would be more efficient!

There are also so many ways of circumventing this proposal using software that is readily available in the Internet. So I do not think that it will deter serious criminals.

All of this is especially pointless when you consider that one can (and criminals do) legally buy a prepaid mobile phone without providing any identity information.

So who is this new measure really targeting?

My take on it is that it is the bright idea of somebody who wants to grab headlines with a great new security measure, but that this person has no concept of the practical use or implications of the idea. It certainly would not be the first time this ever happened!

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