Online and mobile tracking could protect vulnerable, says South West ‘cyber’ cop

The South West police officer leading the fight against cyber crime says digital technology could help keep vulnerable people safe.

Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Cavin says tracking mobile phones and online searches could protect the young or the elderly from crime.

A teenager out late on a city street could be spotted using geolocation tracking of the roaming signal on their phone and be sent a text to check they were safe.

“It’s a bit like an officer on patrol spotting a 14-year-old girl out alone at 2am and approaching her to ask, ‘are you all right?’,” said DCI Cavin.

The ‘cookie’ files that follow online behaviour could be used to see if an elderly person might be a fraud victim, he said.

But DCI Cavin said he was not proposing that the police and caring services should get involved without a wide debate first.

“Some of that (tracking) starts to feel like Big Brother,” he said, referencing the all-seeing presence of the totalitarian state in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

The technology is available. I am saying these are thoughts for the future, things we should be discussing.”

Such ideas were linked to the challenge of policing the cyber world, he said.