I asked my girlfriend if I could, in principle, track her for a day, without telling her how: she agreed and I set the service up on her phone, in five minutes, while she was asleep. I have a map of her movements in front of me right now. It feels very wrong. And it required no technical knowledge, or “hacking”, whatsoever. That this is possible, and so easy, to my mind, is extremely sinister. I had a squabble with one of these companies on Radio 4 yesterday, and they seemed astonished at what I was saying. They promised that they would tighten up security, and think about getting better consent for tracking people’s location than one response to a text message. The notion that this technology could be misused in this way had not, apparently, occurred to them.
It has certainly occurred to the police and intelligence agencies, who will shortly have powers to require companies to store this data for 12 months. And then get access for an extremely large number of purposes under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Along with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, and a wide range of other government agencies.