- Government's secret Celldar project will allow surveillance
of anyone, at any time and anywhere there is a phone signal...
- Secret radar technology research that will allow the
biggest-ever extension of 'Big Brother'-style surveillance in the UK is
being funded by the Government.
- The radical new system, which has outraged civil liberties
groups, uses mobile phone masts to allow security authorities to watch
vehicles and individuals 'in real time' almost anywhere in Britain.
- The technology 'sees' the shapes made when radio waves
emitted by mobile phone masts meet an obstruction. Signals bounced back
by immobile objects, such as walls or trees, are filtered out by the receiver.
This allows anything moving, such as cars or people, to be tracked. Previously,
radar needed massive fixed equipment to work and transmissions from mobile
phone masts were thought too weak to be useful.
- The system works wherever a mobile phone can pick up
a signal. By using receivers attached to mobile phone masts, users of the
new technology could focus in on areas hundreds of miles away and bring
up a display showing any moving vehicles and people.
- An individual with one type of receiver, a portable unit
little bigger than a laptop computer, could even use it as a 'personal
radar' covering the area around the user. Researchers are working to give
the new equipment 'X-ray vision' - the capability to 'see' through walls
and look into people's homes.
- Ministry of Defence officials are hoping to introduce
the system as soon as resources allow. Police and security services are
known to be interested in a variety of possible surveillance applications.
The researchers themselves say the system, known as Celldar, is aimed at
anti-terrorism defence, security and road traffic management.
- However civil liberties groups have been swift to condemn
- 'It's an appalling idea,' said Simon Davies, director
of Privacy International. 'The Government is just capitalising on current
public fears over security to intoduce new systems that are neither desirable
- The system, used alongside technology which allows individuals
to be identified by their mobile phone handsets, will mewan that individuals
can be located and their movements watched on a screen from hundreds of
- Prototypes have been effective over 50 to 100 metres
but the developers are confident that range can be extended.
- After a series of meetings with Roke Manor, a private
research company in Romsey, Hants, MoD officials have started funding the
multi-million pound project. Reports of the meetings are 'classified'.
- Whitehall officials involved in radar confirmed that
the MoD was 'very interested' last week. 'It's all about resources now,'
- Private security specialists have also welcomed the new
- 'It will be enormously useful,' the director of one private
security firm said. 'Instead of setting up expensive and cumbersome surveillance
equipment, police or the security services could start work quickly and
easily almost anywhere.
- 'For tracking a suspect, preventing a potential crime
or a terrorist strike or simply locating people [the system] has enormous
- It is likely that the technology would be used at first
to protect sensitive installations such as ports and airfields.
- The perimeter of a nuclear power station or an RAF base
could be watched without having a bank of CCTV screens and dozens of expensive
- If the radar picked up movement then a single camera
could be focused on a specific area.
- Celldar could also monitor roads when poor visibility
due to bad weather rendered cameras useless.
- 'The equipment could pick up traffic flows towards an
accident site and the details of a crash; who is where and so on,' said
Peter Lloyd of Roke Manor.
- Lloyd also outlined a number of military applications
for the technology. Individual armoured vehicles or even soldiers could
carry the detectors which could tell them where enemy troops were.
- Security specialists point out how useful personal radars
would be in siege situations. However there are significant concerns that
the technology might be abused by authorities or fall into the wrong hands.
- 'Like all instrusive surveillance, we need to be sure
that it is properly regulated, preferably by the judiciary,' said Roger
Bingham of Liberty.
- Bingham expressed concerns that the new equipment, which
would be virtually undetectable, could be used by private detectives or
others for personal or commercial gain.
- Modern technology has brought massive opportunities for
wider surveillance. Since the 11 September terrorist attacks on Washington
and New York, the government has been pushing through a package of anti-terrorism
legislation which targets electronic communications.
- Senior police officers are now allowed to access mobile
telephone and email records without judicial or executive assent. Within
two years, all mobile phones are expected to have satellite-locating devices
built into them.