Minister: iPhones aren’t safe where I live

Author: By Nigel Morris, Deputy Political Editor

Lord West admitted he preferred not to carry a state-of-the-art iPhone or Blackberry because of the fear of crime ? either from street robbers or computer hackers.

He told journalists that one reason he carried a “stone age” mobile, rather than a sophisticated multi-media device, was the risk of losing sensitive or confidential information.

“You have opened yourself up to all these internet issues. Suddenly people can get access to all sorts of data.” Holding up his phone, he added: “It’s also to stop being mugged. I live in Hackney. If they see that, they are more likely to feel sorry for me and give me a fiver.”

Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, said that the relatively small number of Blackberries used in Whitehall reflected problems in making them secure if they were lost or stolen.

It was easier for “these nasty bastards who will try to steal things” to obtain information from mobiles with internet links than from paper documents, he said.

“In the old days, when people used quill pens, you had to knock the chap on the head and grab the letter from him. They make the individual more vulnerable if he’s using them.”

Lord West said: “There are a limited number of government Blackberries that are more restricted and are accredited by [GCHQ at] Cheltenham. There’s a dreadful tension between the easy flow of information and security.”

His comments echo the admission by Jacqui Smith, when she was Home Secretary, that she would not feel safe walking in areas like Hackney, or even more affluent districts, after dark.

She attempted to soothe the row by claiming she had stopped for a kebab one evening in Peckham, south-east London. But it later emerged she had been accompanied by a bodyguard when she picked up her takeaway.

Lord West’s fondness for blunt language has landed him in hot water before. In a radio interview last year he said he was not “totally convinced” by Government plans to lock up terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge. He retracted his comments hours later after a meeting with Gordon Brown.

He later explained: “Being a simple sailor, not a politician, maybe I didn’t choose my words well.”

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