Criminals take to spying on each other

Criminal gangs have been using their own spying tools on rival operators and fitting counter- surveillance equipment to avoid being detected.

Both gardaí and customs officers have discovered privately fitted devices in the course of their investigations.

In the case of the gardaí, a criminal who was to be the subject of a Garda spying operation, was also being trailed by an unknown third party.

The second tracking device had nothing to do with gardaí and confirmed concerns about the availability of this type of equipment on the open market.

Customs officers at the Revenue Commissioners had a different experience when a target they wanted to track had equipment aimed at thwarting investigators.

In this case, the officers wanted to follow a container. The jamming device did not stop Revenue officials from keeping tabs on the journey of the container, but it blocked the transmission of the sound recordings the devices was able to pick up.

As sign of the effort to counter this type of technology, in Feb 2011 the Communications Regulator outlawed the use or importation of devices designed to jam signals.

It is now against the law to use, import, or hire technology designed to interfere, interrupt, or block an electronic signal.

This activity has been in addition to other techniques used by criminals to foil surveillance operations. This includes buying a large number of SIM cards to allow one-off phonecalls and the purchase of scanning devices to detect transmitters planted by the security forces.

Spy games

Where does casual surveillance end and spying begin? These are the guidelines on when a person’s privacy is liable to be intruded.

* A person’s house is on a public road: It can be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person’s house is not on a public road: It cannot be photographed without surveillance permission.

* A car is parked in a private residence: It cannot be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A car is leaving a private residence, driving on to a public road: It can be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person is visiting a private residence but is walking towards it on a public road: They can be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person is standing in a private garden, a driveway, or in a house: They cannot be pictured without surveillance permission.

* A person is coming through an airport: They can be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person is leaving or arriving at a business premises the public have access to: They can be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person is entering a private business from a public road: They can be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person is standing in a business’s private yard or driveway, or is inside the building: They cannot be pictured without permission for surveillance.

* A person is in the back office of an otherwise public business: They cannot be pictured without permission for surveillance.

For more in this special investigation, click here.


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