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Mobile Communications: M-Crime and Security

Stones, Elizabeth Kelly; (2017) Mobile Communications: M-Crime and Security. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The dramatic growth of mobile communications creates many opportunities for previously disconnected populations to enhance their access to information and resources during periods of crisis, particularly where formal services are weak. While numerous studies have lauded the potential benefits of mobiles, the potential security and crime risks and benefits associated with mobile ownership and use have been largely overlooked. This thesis is concerned with understanding the relationship between crime, the security of developing world populations and the increasing penetration of mobile telephony. The aim is to explore the security-enhancing and crimeinhibiting benefits, and identify and analyse the crime and security threats, associated with mobile phones in developing world settings. The study findings are used to examine whether crime opportunity theories such as routine activity theory can be fruitfully applied to examine the relationship between mobile telephony and constellations of motivated offenders, suitable targets and capable guardians in developing world settings. Specifically, it examines the ways in which mobile phones inhibit crime in developing world settings by increasing the perceived effort and risk, reducing the rewards and provocations, and removing excuses for crime. It then addresses how mobile phones create opportunities for crime in developing world settings, investigating the social and situational conditions which contribute to these crime opportunities through reducing the perceived effort and risk, increasing the rewards and provocations, and contributing to excuses for crime. To support the development of theory, the study utilises primary data collection from two case studies: Kenya and Uganda. These include interviews with relevant stakeholders, focus group discussions and qualitative and quantitative surveys with mobile phone owners, users and non-users. The findings reveal user perceptions of a range of security and crime benefits and threats associated with mobile telephony. These are subsequently examined and classified through opportunity and situational crime analysis and associated prevention techniques. Mobile phones are found to inhibit crime in developing world, primarily through enhancing the perceived risk associated with the commission of crime. However, formal uses for crime reporting and detection remain limited, with the majority of users reliant on informal social networks for support during periods of insecurity. Mobile phones also create new opportunities for crime in resource-poor contexts, both as crime targets and crime facilitators. A range of social, cultural and situational conditions are also found to inform opportunities for crime and crime prevention in developing world settings. A preliminary categorisation of crime and security threats associated with mobile telephony in the two case studies is developed, and the new category of ‘m-crime’ is proposed to incorporate, “any illegal or anti-social activity facilitated or committed using mobile telephony”. Situational crime prevention (SCP) techniques are applied to address opportunities and criminogenic conditions that foster the commission of m-crimes in developing world settings, categorise prevention mechanisms according to effort, risk, reward, provocation and excuses, and propose further techniques using the 25 techniques framework. Opportunity prevention techniques characterising IN SAFE HANDS (Whitehead et al., 2008) are also applied to the prevention of handset theft. Specific methodological challenges associated with the collection of data on perceptions of security in resource-poor, developing world settings are identified. These include limitations of the focus group method in contexts where group dynamics are characterised by inequalities of power which constrain participation, cultural restrictions on expressing dissent and their implications for Likert scale survey responses, and logistical challenges associated with obtaining suitable venues in contexts where privacy is limited and settings do not meet the basic requirements of traditional data collection instruments. Finally, theoretical and practical applications and implications of the study findings are addressed. In particular, the study addresses the applicability of opportunity theories of crime and situational techniques of crime prevention to mobile phones in developing world contexts.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Mobile Communications: M-Crime and Security
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1571072
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