UK's New 'Digital Economy' Law Somehow Now Gives Police The Power To Remotely Kill Phone Service

from the sidestepping-debate-with-last-minute-additions dept

The UK's long-gestating Digital Economy Act has finally gone into force. The law is mainly interested in porn and pirates -- two issues most of the UK public is far less interested in having subjected to intrusive regulation.

But just keeping an eye on who is or isn't availing themselves of porn/torrents isn't the only intrusive aspect of the Act. As Joseph Cox of Motherboard points out, an amendment to the law grants some pretty scary new powers to UK law enforcement, allowing them to kill citizens' means of communication.

[L]aw enforcement agencies can remotely disable or restrict a mobile phone if it is suspected of being used for drug dealing or related to it, and in some cases regardless of whether a crime has actually been committed, according to legal commentators.

Law enforcement isn't being given a kill switch. But it's being given the next best thing. With a court order, police can approach service providers and have them restrict or cut off service. The only thing law enforcement will have to provide is a vague theory the targeted phones may be involved in criminal activity.

Orders can apply if the user is "facilitating the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offense," or "conduct of the user that is likely to facilitate the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offence (whether or not an offence is committed)."

Nice touch there, with the "whether or not an offence is committed." A person may not know someone they communicate with is involved in criminal activity, but they're at risk of having their phone service interrupted (possibly indefinitely) nonetheless.

The only way this part of the Act [PDF] could be considered "narrowed" or "tailored" is its limitation to alleged drug-related crimes. That narrowness is immediately removed once you realize how things like buying gardening supplies or driving around with too many air fresheners is considered evidence of drug trafficking.

So, UK police will be doing even more "pre-crime" work, robbing people of their ability to converse with others or keep up with the world around them using nothing more than a target being in the same social circle as criminal suspects currently under investigation.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 11:10am

    Oh come on...

    "...Law Somehow..."

    Between loopholes and obtuse legal ease we have been seeing this for years. Governments are laughing at us and here we sit complaining about this party that, and that party this.

    Meanwhile everyone is losing rights and liberty, and none of their favor political parties they "sycophant" for are stopping any of it!

    It does make for great distraction, political party playing their "sheep like" followers against each other. Party always comes before Nation. Because if it didn't, then they would never form up!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 4 May 2017 @ 11:51am

    Holy cow so they won't cut phone service for suspected organized crime, gangs, conspiracies to assassinate the prime minister, or murder plots. Boy am i glad it is "narrowly tailored".

    And how do they know one's "conduct" during phone calls is "likely to facilitate maybe another person's something something drugs something perhaps maybe"?

    "Love, fetch me a bottle of paracetamol on your way home, will you?" <dead air>

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 12:25pm

    Stupid

    The same tech that will ultimately bring them accountability will also keep people connected no matter what the unaccountable want.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jordan Chandler, 4 May 2017 @ 12:39pm

    Confused

    What happens when the phone service is cut off and they call their provider and the provider says their services has been cut off or limited by the Police?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 1:14pm

      Re: Confused

      It probably includes a gag order to the provider.
      I'd like to see that call
      "my phones service is out"
      "No it is working fine"
      "No it is out"
      "No it's not"....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 4:01pm

        Re: Re: Confused

        The provider could ignore the gag order and tell the customer anyway.

        Most phone providers have a person's Email. Just simply send the customer an anonymous Email telling them what happened, but using an offshore no-logging VPN servive, to keep the cops from knowing who did it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 12:47pm

    Considering some fucking dickheads are exploding ieds with these cell phones its a wonder the military doesn't just destroy all the cell towers in a specific region to ekiminate these threats.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 4 May 2017 @ 2:06pm

      Re:

      Whoa. What?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Daydream, 4 May 2017 @ 4:19pm

        Translation

        "It's possible to make improvised explosives using the hardware from a specific mobile phone; when that mobile phone's number is called, the electrical current it triggers causes the explosive it's connected to to blow up.

        I wonder, given that once such an explosive is made, all it takes for the perpetrator to detonate it is a phone call...why doesn't the military destroy all the cell-phone towers and shut down the mobile networks so that nobody can make a call to set off a bomb?"

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 9:42am

          Re: Translation

          "Quick! Ban fire because it can be used to ignite a fuse! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!"

          Maybe it's because we like having nice things. Or at least we used to... Lately, I wonder why governments around the world don't just declare an end to the democracy experiment and go to full-on Authoritarian rule. It's not like many people will actually do anything about it, the few that do will get picked up by the same tech that they love so much.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 4:46pm

      Re:

      IEDs in Britain? Methinks someone didn't read the article.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 1:28pm

    Up next: Declaring that pirated content is a drug so the AA-holes can get the police to shut down victims' internets.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    morons panicing UNITE, 4 May 2017 @ 2:05pm

    ya so

    what idiots bother paying for phones anyways....
    steal and use them..gee do i have to think for all you criminals?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 4:08pm

      Re: ya so

      There are also providers outside of the UK not subject to this. Someone could get a provider, say, in the US that has roaming in Britain. A US provider is not subject to British laws.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 2:38pm

    and yet again the copyright industry is used to get a law enacted that is really about stopping the ordinary people from finding out what ass holes their politicians and the rich and famous are and what stupid tricks they get up to and that news from spreading around the world! it's all about the rich and powerful being able to do whatever the hell they want, with no consequences while they can stop the ordinary people from doing/saying anything! the old double standards in play again, the haves v the have nots, the gentry against the paupers!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 5:09pm

    UK, what a wonderful police state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 12:31am

    "Orders can apply if the user is "facilitating the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offense," or "conduct of the user that is likely to facilitate the commission by the user or another person of a drug dealing offence (whether or not an offence is committed).""

    So, people using the phones for terrorism, sex trafficking, extortion or plain old insider trading are free from interruption? Nice to know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 5:22am

    Ah come on! I get that copyright is important and that the work of artists has value but this ridiculous.
    Weren't the huge fines enough?
    UK already has provisions of up to 10 years in jail for piracy, now the cops get to dick with your utilities as well?

    It's been over 20 years, can't they take a hint? Punishing end users (downloaders) will not affect piracy significantly.
    Heck it didn't work with drugs and alcohol, which have much worse effects on the user.

    If anything this sort of stuff will make piracy even more prevalent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      Ah come on! I get that copyright is important and that the work of artists has value

      Have you not noticed that those who push that line are the ones that use copyright to gain control over an artists work, and keep most of the value to themselves?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jigsy, 5 May 2017 @ 5:55am

    If you think that's bad, check out what was published today: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/04/uk_bulk_surveillance_powers_draft/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 8:38am

    "[L]aw enforcement agencies can remotely disable or restrict a mobile phone if it is suspected of being used for drug dealing or related to it, and in some cases regardless of whether a crime has actually been committed, according to legal commentators."

    Cool - now all those people attempting to record police brutality will be charged with drug offenses - brilliant!

    Also, doesn't that legislation make watching streamed infringed content a felony with possible incarceration for ten years?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 9:46am

    Trust us, it will not be abused. (TM)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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