The London Metropolitan Police now have a method for snatching data from the phone of a suspect they have taken into custody. It includes all kinds of fun stuff, like contacts, call history, and sms’. The catch is that even if no charges are brought against the individual, the data will remain as “evidence”. It is unclear what this evidence is for without a crime or charges.
Already the method is employed in 16 boroughs throughout the London area and stands on the brink of a uniform use across the UK. One group, Privacy International, stands opposed to it, saying it is an offense against human rights laws, though which laws were not stated.
The old way the police used to retrieve information of the phones of suspects was by sending the phone off to forensics. They often had to wait for weeks to see the fruit. Now there are terminals designed specifically for the extraction that the officers will use to connect the mobile and print the data and save it to digital format in records.
It was revealed to the BBC by an anonymous Met Police informant that even upon the release of a suspect all data from the phone is kept and managed in the same ways that other data is by the MPS. None of it depends on whether or not charges are made against the owner of the phone. So if the police want to know who you are calling, they just take you to the station, steal the data, and let you go. That’s reasonable, isn’t it? No one’s complaining, so they probably think everyone’s ok with it.
According to official guidelines, however, the phone extraction cannot be performed without adequate suspicion that this particular phone was utilized in connection with a crime. Mindless statements are being made to distract us from the real issue. Consider that made by Stephen Kavanaugh, Deputy Commissioner of MPS, “Criminal activities are being committed with the aid of all kinds of mobile devices more and more these days.” Is he from the Stone Age? Is this a new revelation to him? Seriously! Is there anyone on the planet who does not already know that?
He tries to dissuade suspicion that these terminals will be abused by referring to the officers as “trained officers”. I wonder if they have any untrained officers in their department. That would be a shock. Are they trained to use restraint over their impulse to steal information just because they have the power to do so? I doubt that was part of the training. The next step is that these will be installed in Police vehicles and carried by officers on the streets.
There are two different standards for DNA and the data in smartphones. While it is illegal for the Police to keep DNA profiles after a person is acquitted or let go without charges being pressed, the smartphone data does not enjoy the same legal status as DNA profiles. When will we ever learn that the Police can easily be converted into internal terrorists and turned against citizens? Did we not learn this about Soviet Communism and Nazi Germany? Now we see it raising its ugly head not only in the U.S., but now also in Great Britain.
Source: Met Police to extract suspects’ mobile phone data [BBC]