I have a “I would like others to explain ______ to me” type question which means I am 'probably OK' but wanted to check.

A recent article mentioned suspects performing an action (leaving a phone on the ground) to foil law enforcement surveillance. I can't figure out what that is protecting from, although I have a couple of possible explanations in my mind.

I believe this would be an interesting, topical question with a practical answer, potentially useful to future users of the site. On the other hand, I don't see anything specific in the on topic page and it might be 'too broad'. I do note there are over 100 questions tagged surveillance.

There is also the law enforcement aspect; though I believe this question could be appropriately focused on explaining what's going on, as opposed to leading to "how do I defeat law enforcement surveillance" which may be a murky area.

I don't usually ask-to-ask, but since questions about law enforcement are mentioned in the on/off topic pages or on meta, I figured I would.

Would a question about explaining an aspect of law enforcement surveillance be on-topic for the main site?


1 Answer 1


It depends if they are answerable or not. A question like the one you posted seems very answerable (and the fact that it has been answered proved my hypothesis). This is because the technique is well-known and public knowledge.

Questions such as "How does the NSA attack [my favourite crypto algorithm]?" range from "Nobody knows" to tinfoil-hat levels of conspiracy theories. These questions will likely be closed as too broad or primarily opinion-based, as this information is likely not public knowledge, unless somebody leaks it to the public.

In general, if you think that some information may be public, but you can't find it or you don't understand it, then it is probably on-topic. If you think that only the three-alphanumerics agency of your choice (MI5 exists, after all) is able to answer it conclusively, then it's probably off-topic.

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