'Stingray' Scanners (1)

Committed By: 
The Mayor


Joanne McCartney AM:  Good morning, Mr Mayor.  Thank you for your response in regard to my request about these fake mobile phone towers or ‘stingrays’, as they are known colloquially.  Sky News undertook an investigation and said that it found 20 in London that appeared to be intercepting Londoner’s phone calls before they reached the official mobile phone towers, which obviously gives great concerns for Londoner’s security of their personal information.  There are two main issues with this.

Firstly, I understand that they can be bought for about £1,000 and so they are relatively cheap.  I understand that criminals can use them to intercept personal data.  My first question is: what are the police doing about ensuring that criminals are not using this bit of equipment?

Secondly, of course, the police and security services may be using them for counterterrorism purposes.  Mr Mayor, you may not be aware that David Anderson QC, the Government’s Reviewer of Counterterrorism Legislation, [Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation] brought out a report last week that cited that these surveillance instruments in particular - and I quote him here - “do not have a clear and explicit basis in legislation”.  There were concerns about the judicial or otherwise oversight of these.  I wondered whether you can just answer those two questions.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thanks very much, Joanne, and you are quite right to take this up, frankly.  On the first point on what the police are doing, I do not know the extent to which the police have so far detected illicit use of these scanners.  You are right in what you say about the possibility of buying them on the market.  I cannot give you any information about that, but I would be happy to write to you and of course I will be taking it up with Sir Bernard [Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis].