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.

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Comments on “Anyone Traveling Into The UK Can Have Their Phones Seized And Data Downloaded Without Cause”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

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.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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!

fuck the NSA, AND EU says:

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”
“be proud when she makes noise”


Anonymous Coward says:

“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 🙂

Digger says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

JackHerer (profile) says:


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?

Sheogorath (profile) says:

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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