London rioters armed with mobile technology

London skyline

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: London's police commissioner today said there are no plans to call in the military after big riots there. After nights of vandals and looters setting fires to buildings, and stealing from businesses all across parts of the city. The rioters -- mostly young people who police call hooligans -- are using technology to get in touch with one another. And to plan their next attacks.

Ian Mackenzie is the BBC's technology editor -- he's with us from London. Hi Ian.

IAN MACKENZIE: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: We've heard that the rioters are using all different kinds of technologies to communicate and plan targets. Is that what's really going on?

MACKENZIE: Well, certainly this is what we've been hearing from a few senior police officers and senior politicians. They're calling this the social networking riots. Twitter, in particular, and also the BlackBerry messenger system being singled out as mechanisms some of these rioters are using to insight others, call on others to come join them, and also, coordinate their effort when they're out on the street of an evening.

CHIOTAKIS: I imagine police have different technologies, too -- do they have a step-up, you think?

MACKENIZE: What we're seeing here -- according to some of the experts I've spoken to -- there's a real turning of the tables if you like. In the past it's been police who communicate and coordinate in a very fast, dynamic way. Now young people have all these technologies at their disposal to coordinate their movements and in some senses they're using that to outpace the police.

CHIOTAKIS: Have tech companies responded to this? Are they doing anything to help law enforcement?

MACKENIZE: No, we have, then, a piece of legislation that would approach communications companies like BlackBerry and obtain subscriber information if it relates to criminality. But, I've been speaking to a lawyer, this morning, who said they really would need specific identities. They can't just go out to troll for everyone mentioning key words.

CHIOTAKIS: The BBC's Ian Mackenzie. The technology editor there. Ian, thank you.

MACKENIZE: Thank you.

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