UK Police to extract suspects’ mobile phone data

Cell phone
Image: Peyri Herrera CC-BY-ND

Police in London have started to use a new system which extracts data from the mobile phones of people they arrest. The system can extract data history, text messages, contacts, and other information stored in the phone even if the phone or SIM card are locked.Police say the new system will speed up prosecutions because previously mobile phones had to be sent away for forensic analysis. They said the system would not be used on all arrestees, but only when they suspected the phone had been used as part of a crime.

Privacy advocates are concerned about what happens to the collected data, as the Metropolitan Police have said it will be kept even if a suspect is later cleared. The European Court has already ruled that it is illegal to retain DNA data of cleared suspects, and campaigners say keeping phone data in this way is also illegal. The Metropolitan Police have said they are “seeking clarification” on this issue.

One potential problem for the new system is RIM’s BlackBerry phones, which are “built from the ground up to be secure” and unlike most phones include onboard encryption of the data. However, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 makes it an offence not to divulge a computer password or passphrase when requested by the police, so even these security measures could be circumvented.

Source: Guardian article


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