The website Technorati.com, which tracks blogs around the world, is reported to have spotted the first cell phone pictures of the London bombings within minutes of the attacks, as images were posted on blogs. Site founder David Sifry described the media's weaving of amateur phone images with professional footage as a "seminal event."
Terrorists used cell phones to detonate explosives in the Madrid train bombings of March 2004, which killed 191 people. It's possible that terrorists used similar tactics for the London attacks. But police say cell phones could now be used as weapons against terrorists, by providing vital clues to their identities.
Detectives on Sunday appealed for video footage or phone images taken near any one of the four London bombing sites.
"These images may contain crucial information which could help detectives in what is a painstaking and complex inquiry," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of London's Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch. Images should be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Sales of imaging phones are growing 40 percent annually. Around 260 million camera phones were shipped worldwide in 2004, according the communications consulting firm Strategy Analytics. The phones outsold digital cameras by almost four to one.
In the U.K. an estimated 93 percent of the population uses cell phones.
"The majority of handsets now sold are camera or video capable," said Toby Robson, spokesman for U.K. network operator Vodafone, which has 15.2 million customers. "A very large chunk of those will have video cameras," he added.
He says the technology makes it possible for almost anyone to serve as an amateur photographer or reporter. "The first footage I saw on Thursday was mobile phone images," Robson added. "If 93 percent of the population has access to a mobile device, potentially that's a huge organic intelligence-gathering machine."
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