Mayor’s "Eye in the Sky" Causes Controversy

Widespread concern over real motive behind London satellite

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Reports of Ken Livingstone's intention to install a satellite miles above London has been met with disdain and suspicion by his opposes who claim that he is "using the prospect of better mobile communication as a sop to expand his surveillance net over London motorists".

Plans for London to spend £12 million in grants to send a satellite into space were confirmed this week when the London Development Agency board voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of backing a bid by global mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat. The overall contract would be worth £630 million.

London-based Inmarsat went to the LDA, the Mayor's economic agency, after failing to secure backing from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Syed Kamall, Conservative MEP for London, member of the Parliament's civil liberties committee, and former telecoms consultant, said, "Londoners are being asked to fork out for this project under the pretence it will reduce the need for mobile phone masts, but there will be concern the real motive for the satellite is to monitor our every move. Mobile phone coverage in London is not bad, and this satellite will not come near to replacing masts.

"Having failed to secure central government funding, Inmarsat has now come cap-in-hand to the Mayor. London has committed £12 million so far, but with the total cost significantly higher, the final burden placed on council tax payers could be astronomical.

"The Mayor already has the potential to collect considerable amounts of information on London commuters through our Oyster cards, so does he really need an eye in the sky to watch our every move?"

March 27, 2007