Jump to content

WA Government expands sensor network to pinpoint mobile phone movements

Recommended Posts

The State Government is quietly expanding a network of high-tech sensors which allows departments to covertly pinpoint the movement of West Australians through their mobile phones.

The West Australian can reveal that two major government departments are using forms of wireless network detectors to monitor people through their phones, including on our roads and at some tourism spots.

The collected data is encrypted and anonymous, and so cannot be used to identify an individual.

But nevertheless, the revelation which emerged through Parliament questions has prompted concern from a leading cybersecurity expert that the State Government’s secret rollout around Perth had exposed people to digital vulnerabilities.

Main Roads revealed it had spent almost $2 million on installing wireless detectors across the Perth road network, which count devices with bluetooth in discovery mode to get live traffic data.

Spokesman Dean Roberts said the agency had sought a change to State laws in 2016 regarding surveillance devices to enable the use of bluetooth technology for collecting the data.

“The bluetooth data is encrypted and therefore anonymous so cannot be used to identify an individual and is not shared,” he said.

“The information collected relates to vehicle volumes, speeds and traffic signal phasing and timing information.”

The Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority has installed detectors at key tourism infrastructure in Perth, including 43 at Yagan Square, six at the Perth Cultural Centre and 23 at Elizabeth Quay to track the number of visitors to each location — by monitoring active and passive users of its wi-fi network.

University of WA Centre for Software Practice director Dr David Glance said he took no assurance from the agencies’ security protections. “Sure it gives them more information, but it’s trading off that they haven’t asked permission, they’re storing it and it does lead to vulnerabilities,” he said.

“There’s plenty of scope, with people not being aware, for this to be abused. It really depends on the integrity and the technical capability of the organisation doing it — which doesn’t give us much hope if it’s the WA Government.

“Bluetooth is particularly bad, because you’re picking up information which uniquely ties you to a specific location and which you may or may not want anyone to know about — it’s your privacy.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.