Reading rights: UK snooped on rioters' messages
British law enforcement officials used mobile-phone messages they intercepted from people they arrested to find and thwart more rioters, the Guardian reported in Tuesday’s editions.
Specifically, they said, they stopped attacks on the 2012 Olympics site, stores in Oxford Circus, and two shopping centers during last week’s London riots.
Scotland Yard was initially thwarted in attempts to monitor rioters plans because they were mostly being discussed on the semi-private BlackBerry instant messaging service. However, cops eventually were able to use messages intercepted on the network to find out where rioters were heading, according to the Guardian.
They sent extra officers to the area to disrupt the lawbreakers, the story stated. The use of the messages seems to explain why certain sites drew a large police presence but also raised questions among Twitter users about whether police spent too much time protecting big landmarks and businesses at the expense of citizens’ safety.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Tim Goodwin, who proposed switching off social media sites at the height of the riots until learning police did not have legal authority to do so, conceded this week that the social-media messages ended up being a useful "intelligence asset.”
This week’s revelation only fueled more outrage against British law enforcement on the same social networks they had sought to shut down.
Mike Flint tweeted, “nice to see that the Met have their excuse as to why so many bobbies were guading Nike rather than the people of london."
“What country does the MET Police think we/they live in?” Ulrik Poulsen of London asked on Twitter Tuesday.
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