Anyone Traveling Into The UK Can Have Their Phones Seized And Data Downloaded Without Cause

from the the-old-rights-are-the-new-luxuries dept

An independent review of the UK's anti-terrorism laws has found that the British "border patrol" functions much like ours when it comes to electronics. If you're bringing it across the border, it can be seized, searched and the data retained indefinitely.

Officers use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports and then scour their data.

The blanket power is so broad they do not even have to show reasonable suspicion for seizing the device and can retain the information for “as long as is necessary”.

Data can include call history, contact books, photos and who the person is texting or emailing, although not the contents of messages.
UK police officers are also authorized to do this to UK citizens, although they are limited to seizing the phone and downloading information only after making an arrest. The border control officers have no such limitations. Scotland Yard, which is in charge of the UK's counterterrorism efforts, spells out travelers' rights this way:
Under the Terrorism Act 2000 a person may be detained and questioned for up to nine hours to determine if that individual is a person concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism as outlined in the Act.
Any person being detained can have their electronics (and contained data) seized. Their data is retained even if no charges are pressed.
Under the Act, police or border staff can question and even hold someone while they ascertain whether the individual poses a terrorism risk. But no prior authorization is needed for the person to be stopped and there does not have to be any suspicion. It means a police officer can stop any passenger at random, scour their phone and download and retain data, even of the individual is then immediately allowed to proceed.
David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of the UK's anti-terrorism policies, says he expects to "raise concerns" during his annual review. That's nice of him, but he seems to be a little too comfortable publicly espousing the "company line."
Mr Anderson said: “Information downloaded from mobile phones seized at ports has been very useful in disrupting terrorists and bringing them to justice.

“But ordinary travellers need to know that their private information will not be taken without good reason, or retained by the police for any longer than is necessary.”
One can easily see where this is headed. Anderson will raise "concerns," which will be addressed by redefining terms like "good reason" and "necessary." That is, if the UK's border protection continues to align with the United States model. Anderson believes this unchecked power is a "useful tool" in the fight against terrorism, and as such, is unlikely to raise severe objections to its continued use.

Even the statements from Scotland Yard defending this tactic have an eerie familiarity.
As with any power to detain an individual it is used appropriately and proportionally and is always subject to scrutiny by an independent reviewer of UK anti-terror laws.
Yes, that's right. Here in the US we also have nothing to fear. Everything the NSA, FBI, DHS, CBP and other acronymed agencies do under the guise of "fighting terrorism" is completely above board, subject to rigorous oversight and 100% legal. It only seems like an intrusive violation of privacy and an abuse of basic civil liberties, something that governments should be protecting us from rather than subjecting us to.

And as for that "independent review," it seems as though Anderson is already at least halfway in agreement with Scotland Yard on the perceived necessity of these policies, something that doesn't bode well for international travelers.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:00am

    If you are using an Android phone, you just simply tap Factory Data Reset before going through Customs. Factory Data Reset will wipe the phone completely clean and back to the configuration it was when it left the factor.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Ninja (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:21am

      Re:

      Will it write on top of the used space to physically destroy the data? I don't think it will.

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:25am

        Re: Re:

        Also having a completely clean phone might indicate that you have something to hide. Enjoy your afternoon in customs while they recover your data.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 10:58pm

        Phones use flash memory, which cannot be reccovered once erase. Once you use Factory Data Reset to wipe the phone, the data is GONE. Unlike with a hard disk, the data is unrecoverable.

        And with the "constitution free zones" in the USA, it is also a good idea to wipe your phone, even when travelling in the USA. I do not live within that zone, but have relatives that do. Before I get into the car to go on a trip, I do a Factory Data Reset on the phone, so that I am ever stopped, and a cop wants to look at the data in my phone, there is nothing there for him to see. This way if a cop ever seizes my phone, he will not get anything.

         

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:21am

      Re:

      Alternatively, simply place your phone into a personal smelting furnace and Melt the Bastard Thing Down. Melting the Bastard Thing Down (MBTD) will wipe the phone completely and return the raw materials back to the configuration* they were when the left the earth.

      (*I am not a metallurgist)

       

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      Lord Kibble (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:27am

      Re:

      Better yet do a complete nandroid backup and upload it to a server (preferably one you own) and then securely wipe the phone. Once on the other side of customs download your backup and restore your phone.

       

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    identicon
    S. T. Stone, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    If we have nothing to fear, they should feel fine with giving up all their data.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:25am

    Well this is only natural since the UK is the US lapdog. It makes me sad though. I know some great Brits and I feel for them. They are aware of the situation and they despise it. As he told me there's nowhere to run much like in the US. Whatever you vote there will be more of the same, if not worse.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Niall (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 7:11am

      Re:

      We despise all this indeed, and what worries me is that I didn't know about this, and I'm an avid Techdirt reader! I dread to think how few other people are aware of this. Something to take to the EU Data Commissioner, I think.

      I wonder if Glyn moody can find out more about it...

       

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  •  
    icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:33am

    Please Please Please

    Will someone, anyone, PLEASE give me a list of ALL these terrorist plots that have been thwarted by all of these "counter-terrorism" forces all over the globe. I keep hearing how numerous they are but never see any evidence of that.

    I seem to only hear about the successful ones that "could have been prevented" if only governments could have MORE power to search and seize.

     

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      RyanNerd (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:46am

      Re: Please Please Please

      Sorry that information is classified for your own protection.
      We don't want terrorists to know what evil plots were foiled -- that way when they try the same tatic again we will be able to thwart them again. I'm sure you understand that this is for your protection.
      Sincerly,
      Big Brother

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 6:02am

      Re: Please Please Please

      Well it probably allows them to map out the pirate parties overseas contacts..

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:47am

    Yay!

    Were all Irish now!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:49am

    this is happening because of the 'more than cozy relationship' between the USA and the UK. they cant do or think anything for themselves, they have to do exactly what the USA tells them. it's bad enough having a government doing what has now been revealed about the US but to be doing the same thing, just because someone else is seems rather gutless to me!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:49am

    is nothing sacred anymore?

     

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    identicon
    fuck the NSA, AND EU, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 5:57am

    meh secret court of love( part 5)

    A)go get a chat server that uses AES 256 encryption
    B) never save your passwords on your phone when using its internet thus no cookie or way can be used against you
    C) never use phone for anyhting and never take it where you would not tell a policemen where you are , or are going.
    D) make sure loads a fuck govt and penis images are on your camera aspect so they get the hint

    E ) always mail your self 20 times a day a giant penis image
    2.6 billion people times 10
    they must be penis lovers running the program....
    call said image differant things like
    "this is da bomb"
    "this would terrorise"
    and
    "be proud when she makes noise"

    LOL

     

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      identicon
      Pixelation, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 7:25am

      Re: meh secret court of love( part 5)

      "call said image differant things like"...

      "Ready to explode"
      "Thoughts of 40 virgins"
      "Ready for the subway"

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 6:13am

    "Anyone Traveling Into The UK Can Have Their Phones Seized And Data Downloaded Without Cause"

    There is only one way to make them stop this: every phone should have a folder labelled "Terrorist stuff, do not peek", placed in an easily discovered location, filled with goatse style pics.

    If they want to know everything and see everything, they have to be prepared for the consequences :)

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 6:36am

    Harassment

    Since the NSA/GCHQ already have everything that is on your phone, this is not an terrorism-related intelligence-gathering exercise, but a diversion and a bureaucratic opportunity for customs to harass and/or interrogate people who seem dangerous, different, or insufficiently British.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 7:35am

    Passcode (phrase) and encryption maybe?

     

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    identicon
    Digger, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Fucking idiots

    Carry a corporate phone and laptop - belonging to a multi-national corporation with offices in the UK and they can't touch them without a warrant.

    If you must travel with a personal device, make sure to load it up with viruses and malware for the PCs they'll be downloading the data to so that they get infected and destroyed.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 9:12am

    The British people were so upset about the murdoch newspaper scandal but what to they have to say about this?

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 9:23am

    What seems like an annoying, but fairly easy fix: just pick up a cheap pre-paid phone any time you go into or out of the UK, so it only has the phone calls you've made on that trip, and nothing more.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 9:51am

    Encrypt everything a deny the keys/password to the "authorities".

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 9:52am

    The biggest lie of the 21th century known as 9/11 is the perfect excuse to spy on everyone.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 10:25am

    The fact that they slap the terrorist label on everything these days is sickening.

    Sneeze on a cop - Chemical warfare / Terrorist
    Using Google Search Operators - Evil Genius Terrorist
    Using Google - Probably a Terrorist.
    Using Duck Duck Go - Insecure Terrorist
    Using Yahoo - Probably a Retarded Terrorist
    Using Bing - LOL ^
    Singing Bawitdaba in an Airport - Pushing it Terrorist
    Singing Click Click Boom in an Airport - Fucked Terrorist
    Singing Poker Face in an Airport - Transvestite Terrorist
    Passing through Airport security naked - Better be hot or you're a Insane Naked Terrorist

     

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      icon
      That One Guy (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 11:54am

      Re:

      Passing through Airport security naked

      'Excuse me sir/madam, but why aren't you wearing any clothing?'

      'I figured I was going to have to take it all off when I went through security anyway, so I'd just save everyone the hassle and do it ahead of time.'

       

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    JackHerer (profile), Jul 16th, 2013 @ 12:14pm

    Moronic

    Sadly the fact that they can do this is no longer shocking or disturbing. However what I find bizarre is that feel the need to have this power. What use is it? Who are they going to catch, doing what? Do they think criminals/terrorists/whoever are moving incriminating electronic data over borders using electronic devices? There is this thing called the Internet, with it it is trivial to anonymously transfer encrypted data from anywhere to anywhere else. It is a law that violates our rights which can only catch the most moronic of criminals. What is the point?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2013 @ 3:50pm

    Remind me not to go to the UK.

     

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    identicon
    KissMyWookiee, Jul 18th, 2013 @ 4:27pm

    V for Vendetta

    "People should not be afraid of their government.
    Government should be afraid of the people!"

    ...a sentiment I believe in.

    Without government being reminded every now and then that it is "by the people and for the people", it will over time revert to tyrannical behaviour.

     

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    Sheogorath (profile), Jul 18th, 2013 @ 8:33pm

    Avoidance is the best policy

    Officers use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports and then scour their data.
    Which is why, when visiting our relatives in Southern Ireland, my family travels there via Northern Ireland. No passport check = no data grab.
    *starts singing* Yar-har, fiddle-dee-dee
    You know a pirate's the best thing to be!
    UK don't get private data from me
    'Cos I'm a pirate!

     

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