Mark Bridge writes:
Having just returned from a week’s holiday in a part of the country where mobile coverage was surprisingly sparse, it struck me how much mobile phones were linked to the recent English riots and looting.
Not only were several dozen mobile phone shops targeted by looters, mobile technology has also apparently been used to direct some of the criminal action.
Much of the focus has been on the BlackBerry Messenger service, with at least one person now charged with using BBM to incite an offence. However, the police are also requesting location data and other information directly from network operators. A suggestion that Research In Motion was working with the police led to BlackBerry’s blog being hacked with a message that ended “make the right choice. don’t be a puppet”.
As a result of this technology focus, some have called for social networking services to be suspended during disturbances - while others have condemned this as an over-reaction.
As you’d probably expect, my interpretation is that mobile technology is used as much for good as it is for bad. Yes, social networks can be used to direct riots - and yes, those messages may be traced and tracked. Cameraphone photos of ill-gotten gains can be posted on Facebook, while citizen journalists upload video footage of the local area to services such as Bambuser.
Most importantly, let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture while obsessing about the technology.