Ukraine texts citizens: Hey, we see you're in a mass disturbance

During the protests in Kiev, the Ukrainian government uses phone technology to identify those anywhere near the antigovernment marches.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read
Many Ukrainians aren't happy. NoCommentTVYouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Your government wants to protect you. Because your government cares. Because your government works for you.

Except, that is, when you don't like your government. That's when your government works against you.

Take the Ukraine, which several people are trying to do just at the moment.

It's decided to show what open government is really about. So it's openly texting its citizens to tell them when they've been spotted protesting against the government.

As The New York Times reports, the powers-that-be are being powered by phone technology that identifies any cell phone that happens to be adjacent to where protesters are clashing with the uniformed officers of the state. (Protesting, you see, has suddenly been made illegal.)

Text messages are reportedly being sent that say: "We can see you!!!"

Yes, I have inserted quite some paraphrasing here. The texts actually say: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance."

The accusation is that, surprise, the government is using technology similar to that employed (for a short time) by Nordstrom to follow its citizens and check their behavior.

Moreover, there's the suggestion that it's targeting the more moderate protesters, rather than any supposed ringleaders. Perhaps they already keep tabs on those as a matter of course.

Currently, protesters are objecting to the government's rejection of closer ties with the European Union. For some reason, Ukraine is suddenly choosing to favor the genteel rulers of Russia as partners.

Kyivstar, MTS, and Life -- three Ukraine cell phone companies -- say the text messages have absolutely, positively nothing to do with them. Indeed, Kyivstar suggested to the local Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper that a "rogue" cell phone tower was in operation.

I wonder which rogues might be behind that.

Technology is increasingly being used by the forces of law and order. They experience a certain joy at the ease and the cost savings.

In the Ukraine, it seems the protesters care little that their government might be tracking them. Perhaps they already expect it.

It's not as if they're alone. Citizens across the world -- whether rioting or not -- have their own awareness that their privacy is being siphoned by phone and Wi-Fi for the, um, greater good.