Suspicious minds

I often end up eating supper in front of a late night episode of ‘Law and Order’ or ‘CSI’ – not ideal given all those autopsies.

Mobile phones have become intrinsic to the plots: not just for the characters to contact each other, but tracing calls, connecting witnesses, and even locating suspects by triangulating their signals. Last weekend, we went to see ‘Duplicity’: good film, great plot – and impossible without mobile phones. No wonder Orange sponsor the movies.

My mobile isn’t very fancy. But in my life as in the films, it’s become indispensible. If I pop out to post a letter, I take my keys – and my phone. That’s my choice. The dramas feature mobiles as potential accessories to crime: drug dealers’ throwaway phones, illicit photos, even bomb triggers. It never occurred to me that not having a phone might be suspicious.

Then I read this piece by David Mery (a fellow supporter of NO2ID), reporting two cases where not carrying a mobile was given as grounds for arrest. In Germany, an arrest warrant for Andrej Holm said “The fact that he – allegedly intentionally – did not take his mobile phone with him to a meeting is considered as ‘conspiratorial behavior’.”

And in France a group of students were arrested because, as the Interior Minister said, “They have adopted the method of clandestinity. They never use a mobile phone. They managed to have, in the village of Tarnac, friendly relations with people who could warn them of the presence of strangers.”

In just a few years, mobiles, like TVs, are seen as a universal norm. My friends without TVs get endless hassle from the licensing authorities who seem unwilling to believe anyone can live without the box. Although with iPlayer etc, traditional TV sets are now more dispensible than ever.

David Mery, meanwhile, has his own experience of being seen as suspicious. In 2005 he was arrested for having a combination of a beard, a backpack and a laptop on the tube (geeks of the world beware). Oh, and having a mobile phone.

He has since been one of the few people to succeed in getting his DNA off the police database. In the world of ‘Law and Order’, cases are tied up within the hour. In the real world, it took David over two years to clear his name.

As he concludes, “Aren’t the Police supposed to keep tabs only on convicted criminals and individuals under investigation? So even though the Police concluded I was arrested without a cause, otherwise they would have had a duty to prosecute me, personal information remains in the Police national computer; which can be shared with Europol and Interpol, in other Police databases around the world. Isn’t a state that keeps files on innocent persons a police state?

“This gradual erosion of our fundamental liberties should be of concern to us all.”

You can sign the Lib Dem petition to take all innocent people’s DNA off the national register here.

1 Comment »

  1. David Mery said

    Bridget,

    Thanks for the write up.

    Coincidentally, a few years ago I found in the street a cardboard ad for CSI advertising: “Carry a mobile and we can track you every second of every day.”

    You can see a pic at http://www.flickr.com/photos/acrostich/71599315/

    (Still haven’t watched CSI though.)

    br -d

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