My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: MRSI and MNP - Where the Spies Are

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Monday, November 22, 2010

MRSI and MNP - Where the Spies Are



There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, lead on to fortune

Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, IV, 3

Jamaica has now officially approved a MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information) Bill, effectively passing it into law and giving the CCN (Constabulary Communications Network), the Telecoms arm of the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) yet another tool in their fight against crime as stated in the article “Cabinet approves MRSI Bill”, published Thursday November 18 2010, The Jamaica Gleaner and confirmed by the article “Phone companies to be forced to provide information”, published Friday, November 19, 2010, The Jamaica Observer as announced by Senator Daryl Vaz, Minister of Information & Telecommunications.

Effectively, what this means is that the Local Jamaican Police, on suspecting someone of a crime, can, upon collecting evidence to justify “probable cause” for a serious crime, seek a warrant from a Supreme Court Puisne Judge or Resident Magistrate to sequester information (mobile instrument call history, Geo-Location information) from the relevant Telecom Provider upon whose Network the suspect’s phone is registered.

This legislation covers both mobile and landline phones, effectively making owning a mobile and landline phones a lot like owning a motor vehicle, thus the same legal ramifications of ownership applies. MNP (Mobile Number Portability), as required by the OUR (Office of the Utilities Regulation), may not be too far away.

Jamaica and its Telecom Providers are down to one million (1,000,000) unused mobile numbers from the eight (8,000,000) we had been assigned by the NANP (North American Numbering Plan) since 1997, the year of Telecom Sector liberalization as stated in the article “OUR signals policy shift on portability - says Jamaica running out of phone numbers”, published Friday November 20, 2009, by Mark Titus, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner.

If this were a Greek tragedy, I would stand up and applaud “Bravo”; MNP via the MRSI back door as per my blog article entitled “MNP and MRSI - How it leads to Mobile Number Portability and Crime Eradication in Jamaica”.

Please note that Senator Daryl Vaz, Minister of Information &Telecommunications, who made the announcement, was at pains to point out the fact that safeguards are in place to prevent Police abuse. Also, historically, the first politician to suggest (or prognosticate?) MRSI was Senator Anthony Holness back in 2005, then JLP (Jamaica Labour Party) Opposition spokesman on Education.

Details are yet to emerge, however, as to whether the Police will have real-time mobile and landline phone call history and mobile Geo-Location information based on which tower the registered mobile instrument last made contact with or it will be restricted to just access to historical mobile and landline phone call history and mobile Geo-Location.

Also, no word on if MRSI will be extended to VoIP Calling or Internet modems (3G and 4G modems), as PC’s and smart phones can also be used to make Local and International over the Internet to organize criminal activities. Rest assured, this is coming, much to the benefit of Telecom Providers, who have been losing revenue from free VoIP Services such as Skype, Google Voice, Yahoo Messenger and Fring as per my blog article “MNP and VoIP - A win-win situation for Telecom Providers”.

What is clear is that MRSI is NOT wiretapping, which was always a tool available to the Police, requiring a warrant; nobody is interested in listening to what you have to say, requiring a separate warrant, only who the suspects made and receive calls from and Geo-Location information. MRSI also gives them an additional crime fighting tool. Previously, it was difficult to establish with absolute certainty that a mobile instrument in question used in the process of committing or organizing a crime belonged to the suspect, a problem that MRSI eliminates.

Yes, that’s right folks, that is a not a typo and I did not mis-speak. Registered, much as is the case in Mexico as stated in the article “Mexico may shut down 25.9 million Cell phones which haven't joined Registry”, published April 11, 2010 - 11:45pm by MacRonin, Privacy Digest, specifically Mobile Phones, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMSI using Government of Jamaica Identification (Driver’s License, Passport, Birth Certificate, Voter’s Identification) to identify ownership of the Mobile Phones, Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMSI in the absolute.

To wit, if the Customer decided to swap SIM cards, as is the Jamaican habit, they may be prevented from doing so with Phone Instruments (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMEI and SIM Cards (mobile, fixed line mobile, landline or wired /wireless modems) IMSI being locked in such a way so make phone calling impossible if they are switched, a measure needed to preserve the absolute identity of the Subscriber.

If you allow someone else to use your mobile phone and they commit a crime, then akin to Motor Vehicle License Registration, you can be an accessory to the crime, even if it is a case where the mobile instrument was stolen or accessed without your permission, much as is the case with motor vehicles.

Thus, owners of a mobile or landline phone must exercise greater discretion as to who they allow to use their mobile or landline phone and report their mobile instruments when lost or stolen to the Telecom Provider, as MRSI effectively registers and establishes ownership of the mobile or landline phone. And akin to Mexico, failure to register would mean that people mobile phones would be shut down, in effect making easy, unidentified communication for criminals (or people with something illegal to hide) difficult.

The North Americans, like the Mexicans, soon realized the power that unregistered mobile phones give criminals. No surprise as the Government of the United States of America implemented MRSI for Prepaid Phones (equivalent to Jamaican Postpaid Phones) after the failed bombing plot in New York Time Square by alleged bomb plotter, Faisal Shahzad as stated in the article “US lawmakers target pre-paid cell phone anonymity”, published Wednesday 26-05-2010, Yahoo News! (AFP) as well as in my blog article entitled “MNP and US Authorities - MRSI Bill to be passed to catch criminals”.

As in Jamaica, it is felt that the registration of Pre-Paid mobile phones, a more flexible equivalent to our Postpaid phones in Jamaica, were too easily purchased, requiring no identification and no credit card checks [Government picture identification] and thus legislation on the Pre-Paid Mobile Phone industry was long overdue. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer says it best, quote: “This proposal is overdue because for years terrorists, drug kingpins and gang members have stayed one step ahead of the law by using prepaid phones that are hard to trace”.

So too, felt Senator Dwight Nelson, Minister of National Security, who realized the untapped potential of MRSI (Mandatory Registration of Subscriber Information) as stated in the article “CLARO Backs Cell Phone Tracking Plan; Digicel, LIME in Wait-And-See Mode”, published Sunday May 16, 2010 by Mark Titus, Business Reporter, The Jamaica Gleaner, a measure which Telecom Provider CLARO backed, has now made good on his promise.

This monumental change to the Telecommunications Act of 2000 as well as other associated Acts of Law that enable the CCN with power to track criminals or suspects wanted in serious criminal investigations using mobile instrument’s call history and Geo-Location information effectively positions the Jamaican Law Enforcement into the 21st Century.

It also speaks volumes as to how criminals in Jamaica will be caught in the future, as most Jamaicans cannot live without their mobile phones and thus their movements can be thus easily tracked, as Telecom Providers keep this information over a six (6) month period. Best of all, for me personally and some of my long time friends from Telecom Provider C&W (now Telecom Provider LIME), is the fact that this is a perfect setup for MNP (Mobile Number Portability), something which I have been campaigning for since I was a Level II Technician at C&W (2001 to 2004).

Aside from the Police being able to track the location of suspected criminals, MRSI will also curb anti-social behaviors associated with the use of Telecom Providers Networks, as Customers will think twice about prank calling Telecom Provider’s Customer Care Services and Emergency Numbers to antagonize the severely underpaid Customer Care Agents (hint: They need a raise!).

Additionally, the complaint of “Unknown Number” as per the Busy Signal song would also addressed, as Customers making prank calls would be unable to do so and not be identified, with the information i.e. the caller’s name along with their number showing up on the screen of the receiving Customer’s mobile or landline phone, unless you chose to make your number “private”.

Geo-Location services means that children and even pets going missing and being unable to be found would also be a thing of the past, as both can be “pinned” with a GSM enabled device that would allow the Police to also improve their Search and Rescue operations and more easily locate missing and lost individuals as well as customer to know who and where prank callers or just simply loved ones are located, effectively an implementation of Mobile Triangulation without GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) as per my blog article entitled “Mobile Triangulation without GPS - A solution to crime under out noses”.

But most importantly, it would make owning a phone number a reality, something about which Jamaicans who travel abroad have complained, as when the return home, they find that the mobile number that they had for years has been disconnected, having exceeded the ninety (90) days stipulated by the Big Three (3) Telecom Providers as being the transfer window within which a Customer must top-up their mobile phone for it to remain active on the Telecom Provider’s Network.

Telecom Providers and Customers can also benefit from Geo-Location Services, such as a Mobile Social Network, like Brown Dawg, akin the suggestion I made to Telecom Provider Digicel in writing, which I based around Digicel InTunes and is paid for via mobile phone advertising and revenue sharing with Customers getting JA$100 for each Targeted Delivery of an advertisement as detailed in my blog articles entitled:

  1. Brown Dawg, a Mobile Social Network based on Mobile phones
  2. Brown Dawg and A So di Ting Set - An API tool for User preferences and avoid backlash”, “Brown Dawg and I spy Rewards - Geo-Location rewards system for Mobile Social Networking
  3. Brown Dawg and Se'et Deh - Behavioural Targeted Marketing Ads

Best of all, the technology to make all these proposals come to life already exists; it is now merely a matter of interest to be displayed by the Telecom Provider in utilizing the implementation of MRSI as a means of making additional advertising revenue from what is the latest trend in the Social Networking space: Geo-Location as per the article on FaceBook Places entitled “Facebook Places: One check-in to rule them all”, published August 18, 2010 7:48 PM PDT by Caroline McCarthy CNET News - The Social

Then there is Foursquare, who started this trend of Geo-location Based Social Networking entitled “Social Media's new Mantra: Location, Location, Location”, published May 6, 2010, 5:00PM EST By Diane Brady, TECHNOLOGY – Business Week.

MRSI and its soon coming cousin MNP in 2011 benefits the Police, Telecom Providers and Jamaicans in a symbiotic relationship. Plus, MNP = Flat Rate Calling + Lower Prices for Mobile Instruments. Simple.

Now all we need is an Automated Ticketing System and Jamaica would be definitely on the path to Vision 2030 statements of reduced Road Fatalities……..coming soon in another article. 
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