Sunday 20 August 2017

Police 'were paid £300-a-go to track mobile phones'

Andrew Hough and Mark Hughes

Detectives in Britain have been asked to investigate allegations that police were paid by journalists to track mobile phone locations.

Police in London must trawl through thousands of pages of records to establish whether officers unlawfully obtained the data for the now defunct 'News of the World'.

The request, made by a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, comes amid claims that journalists at the Sunday tabloid could buy phone locations for £300 (€340).

The technique is known as 'pinging'.

Journalists on the tabloid are also said to have gained access to targets' credit card accounts to see where they had been spending money, and so helping to locate them.

Jenny Jones, a Green Party member of the authority, wrote to Scotland Yard yesterday requesting an audit of all cases where the Met obtained tracking data from mobile phones.

Mark Lewis, a solicitor who represents phone-hacking victims, said: "I have sources that I can't reveal who tell me they could do it [obtain the data]."

The "pinging" claims were first made by 'The New York Times', which has been investigating News International's British newspapers since last year.

Sean Hoare, a reporter sacked from the 'News of the World' in 2005, claimed that an editor on the paper's newsdesk made payments of around £300 (€340) to police officers to "ping" the phones. Mr Hoare was found dead earlier this week and there were fears that he had committed suicide.

Working with mobile phone companies, the police and security services have the ability to pinpoint a phone by monitoring which signal masts it is using and triangulating its location.

To get legal authorisation, a senior officer has to believe there is a threat to life, such as a potential suicide or murder.

In all other cases, police have to wait for the user of the phone to make or receive a call or text message. They can then locate the phone using their access to mobile phone networks. Such lower-level operations also require the authorisation of a senior officer.

A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to comment. News International has declined to comment on the claims. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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