Category Archives: Security

Police Spy on Comedian Michael McIntyre

Police have been forced to leap to the defence of a picture taken of the comedian Michael McIntyreby a helicopter team. Snapped while standing in a London street, the picture was posted on the National Police Air Service’s London twitter account. The caption read: “Whilst on tasking [sic] in central London this morning we spotted a certain energetic funny man … Can you guess who?”

The picture itself was taken by a surveillance camera positioned outside of the Global Radio offices in Leicester Square, and has raised the ire of several social media users. The image was quickly attacked as inappropriate with many calling into question the likelihood of Mr McIntyre’s permission being sought and referring to the photo as an abuse of the team’s surveillance powers.

As summed up by Edward Davie, a Labour councillor for Lambeth: “You do a great job but this is dodgy. Do you have permission to post pics of these people from a spy cam on Twitter?”

The helicopter surveillance which is use by the Metropolitan police is overseen by the National Police Air Service, which has regional bases positioned across the country. Supt Richard Watson, the ground operations director for the NPAS, stated that: “We are aware of the tweet and, as far as we are aware, it does not breach any data protection legislation. We feel however it was inappropriate and it has since been removed. We will be speaking to the person who posted the tweet.”

The aircraft employ a range of highly sophisticated digital cameras which are used to take high-resolution images for use in evidence or to provide officers with assistance while planning or conducting operations. These systems are also able to stream live footage back to command bases. It has been reported that planes fitted with equipment capable of intercepting phone calls are also frequently flown across London by the police.

Such a commanding network is impressive, but draws questions concerning legitimate usage, especially in situations such as this. Gerard Batten, aUkip MEP for London, spoke out against the photo by arguing that: “The photograph of Michael McIntyre by a police helicopter and its publishing online is a gross misuse of police power. It isn’t some private citizen taking a snap of a passing celebrity, this is the police, abusing their authority.”

As Mr Batten went on to say, “The implications for civil liberties raised by this are appalling to consider. This isn’t Hollywood, this is real life.”

Trained Mice: The Future of Aviation Security

Airport security has found a new ally – the humble mouse. Specially-trained dogs might have become a common site in airports, but their patrols could be scooped by these more diminutive deputies, as X-Test, an Israeli security firm, puts forward the claim that mice are far more effective at detecting explosives than other methods.

Yuval Amsterdam, the firm’s vice-president and formerbomb-disposal expert in the Israel Defence Forces claims to have put together a more sophisticated detection system, with mice as the prime part. According to Mr Amsterdam, mice are able to sense suspicious items just as well as dogs, but are at the same time easier to train, smaller, and far cheaper.

Should his system prevail, security checkpoints in the near future will employ these creatures in order to help detect terrorists. Far from being let lose, the mice in question will simply be contained within cages and subtly sniff those who pass by.

If a substance which they have been trained to identify is detected they will be able to produce a signal. Unlike dogs, mice can be trained in large groups using machines, so the results – in theory – would be more reliable. In the words of Mr Amsterdam, “Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors.”

It should go without saying that aviation security has seen massive investment and attention during the 21st century, but experts argue that problems can still be exploited due to practical restraints. Explosive trace tests, for example, are extremely effective but can only be used on a few passengers.

X-Test hope that mice might hold the answer due to their size and affordability. It is also expected that they would be able to identify any explosives which have been implanted within the body, something which has been long-regarded as a key weakness in airside security measures.

As stated by Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International: “We do not currently have explosive detection capability in our portals, or an accepted way of detecting ‘internal carries’. The mice just might plug that security hole.”

No UK airport has yet put mice on the pay-roll, but developers hope that this will change, especially when taking the flexibility of the program into account. “We can teach them anything that has a scent – whether it’s explosives, whether it’s drugs, whether it’s ivory in Africa. Anything that has a smell,” added Mr Amsterdam.