Citizens' Issues
Big Brother can eavesdrop, cut off phones and collect data from your mobile chatter

Say goodbye to your privacy and safety. Several international agencies have procured a surveillance system that can cut off your mobile remotely, intercept communications and collect data from thousands of users from a targeted area

Privacy in the current age where information flows freely would always be subjected to certain terms and conditions, considering the security threats that almost every country faces. While almost ever user is aware than phone-tapping goes on, here comes a technology that is being used in over 40 countries for covert surveillance in a targeted area.

The surveillance system developed by UK-based Datong Plc can pretend to be a mobile phone network—it also transmit signals that can remotely switch off phones, intercept communications and collect data from thousands of users in a particular targeted area.

According to a report by UK newspaper The Guardian, Britain’s largest police force, the Metropolitan Police, have recently bought the surveillance system. “Strictly classified under government protocol as ‘Listed X’, it can emit a signal over an area of up to an estimated 10 sq km, forcing hundreds of mobile phones (per minute) to release their unique International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) and International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) codes, which can be used to track a person's movements in real time,” the report says.

The surveillance system, exhibited by Datong at the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi 2011) held at London in September, allows agencies to intercept mobile communication like voice calls and messages and also remotely cut off a mobile from a particular network. The system transmits a signal which can ‘cheat’ all mobiles in an area of around 10 sq km into believing as if they are communicating with their service provider. The main feature of the system, called ‘intelligent denial of service’ is to cut off any particular mobile phone from the area under surveillance. This feature is useful to cut off a phone that security establishments suspect can be used as a trigger for a bomb blast.

The system uses a transceiver that can be as small as a suitcase and operated remotely. Datong sells its products in around 40 countries including the US, the UK and those in Eastern Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions. According to Datong’s website, its products are designed to provide law enforcement, military, security agencies and special forces means to collect early intelligence in order to identify threats and take necessary action.

However, purchase of the surveillance system by the Metropolitan Police has created concerns among lawyers and privacy groups in the UK. In the Guardian report, Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, has been quoted as warning that the technology could give police the ability to conduct ‘blanket and indiscriminate’ monitoring.

While privacy advocates from the UK and other countries would force the government in their own country to use the system under strict conditions, in India, there is no such clause, at least in practice. Even government authorities regularly violate their own rules and regulations when it comes to censorship. (Read: When the government violates its own Internet censorship rules). The only solace is that it is not clear from Datong’s website whether India is also one of the countries that may have procured the surveillance system. But given the government’s concern over the recent spate of terrorist attacks, the days are near when our mobile communication would be placed under surveillance 24x7, so that authorities can freely monitor and control our communication. And there is another issue... what if our hostile neighbours (read China and Pakistan) get their hands on this system? China is capable of producing a clone of almost anything that can be manufactured. Pakistan has enough countries and individual wealthy donors willing to donate to Islamabad. The system can be potentially more dangerous than the nukes that these countries possess. And that would deal privacy—and safety—a big blow as far as India is concerned.

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Birla Sun Life AMC launches Khushaali ki Gaadi

A first of its kind approach to investor education from Birla Sun Life AMC

Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company Ltd (BSLAMC) has launched its unique investor education campaign christened ‘Khushaali ki Gaadi’. This is a first of its kind initiative that aims to create awareness amongst investors about importance of mutual funds.

Dedicated vans with prefixed route visit select spots in the cities at a fixed time, week after week. These vans dedicate their time to resolve investors queries so that they can take well informed decisions regarding planning of their investments. There is extensive use of state of the art technology like mobile calculators, financial messages through SMS and out-bound dialer, and radio to create awareness about the initiative.

A Balasubramanian, CEO of BSLAMC said, “By enhancing knowledge of investors about various investment vehicles, the campaign will enable them to choose investment options that best suit their financial needs by enhancing wealth creation. The aim of this campaign is to drive financial awareness in the country and educate people about the mutual fund opportunity available to them.”

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DSP BlackRock MF launches 12 months fixed maturity plan

DSP BlackRock MF new issue closes on 3rd November

DSP BlackRock Mutual Fund has launched DSP BlackRock FMP - Series 18 - 12M, a close-ended income scheme.

The investment objective of the scheme is to seek to generate returns and capital appreciation by investing in a portfolio of debt and money market securities. The scheme will invest only in such securities which mature on or before the date of maturity of the scheme. The tenure of the scheme is 12 months.

The new issue closes on 3 November 2011. The minimum investment amount is Rs5,000.

CRISIL Short Term Bond Fund Index is the benchmark index. Dhawal Dalal is the fund manager.

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