When Kent Police force eventually comes clean, they may justify IMSI-catcher use in cases of searching for missing persons, or tracking murderers at large. Some will accept that logic, and readily relinquish their privacy to aid the state in such cases. But with responsibility comes risk, especially when one considers how else the technology can be used – and that almost all of us carry mobile phones.


Picture a different scenario: the lawyer’s confidential conversation with their client being tapped. The journalist speaking to a whistleblower, unaware that they are being eavesdropped. Or demonstrators being spied on and added to a monitoring list.

“[There are] concerns IMSI-catchers are targeting peaceful protesters exercising their democratic rights,” says Carlo. Indeed, Vice News and Privacy International uncovered telltale signs of IMSI-catcher use at an anti-austerity demonstration in London last year. But without parliamentary debate and legal scrutiny we cannot hope to fully understand or, better, begin to dictate the contexts in which these devices are deployed.

“Refusal to come clean on the use of IMSI-catchers must trigger an urgent investigation by the Interception of Communications Commissioner,” concludes Carlo. “How else is the public to have any confidence in proportionate policing?” After all, if Kent Police have nothing to hide…


Parts of this blog post first appeared in The Bristol Cable