An article on the BBC describes how the technologies used to track marine activity is being subverted by both researchers and pirates:
The information broadcast by AIS is public – but when the system was first put in use, in the early 1990s, the technology required to receive the information was prohibitively expensive for those not directly involved in the industry.
But now, a typical internet connection can be used to see the locations of boats, as well as an indicator of what type of cargo they may be carrying.
There has been speculation that Somali pirates have been making use of the system.
“It has long been thought that the pirates are basically using AIS as a shopping list,” Mr Ferguson said, “seeing what’s coming into local waters, and what cargo it may have.”
However, Lloyd’s List Intelligence noted that captains are permitted to disable AIS if they feel their crew could be endangered by it.