London Police To Extract Data From Suspects' Mobile Phones -- And Keep It Even If No Charges Are Brought

from the hands-off-my-digital-DNA dept

As the mobile phone moves closer to the center of daily life in many parts of the world, combining phone, computer, camera, diary, music player, and much else all in one, it becomes a concentrated store of the digital DNA that defines us -- who we talk to, what we search for, who we meet, what we listen to. However convenient that may be for us as users, it's also extremely dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands.

Unfortunately, in the UK, it looks like London's police force must now join the list of "wrong hands":

The Metropolitan Police has implemented a system to extract mobile phone data from suspects held in custody.

The data includes call history, texts and contacts, and the BBC has learned that it will be retained regardless of whether any charges are brought.
If a crime has been committed, there is an argument that extracting the data in this way in order to secure a conviction might be justified if carried out with appropriate authorization. But clearly, keeping all that highly personal data as a matter of course, even if no charges are brought, is a breach of privacy and human rights.

It's also pretty pointless. After all, anyone who uses their phone for nefarious purposes will make sure that they can render the contents irrevocably inaccessible with just a couple of clicks - apps that let you do this are likely to proliferate in the wake of this latest development. So most of the data gathered by the police will be that of law-abiding citizens, who don't feel the need to take this precaution.

However, there is an interesting parallel here with the similarly unjustified retention of a suspect's DNA, even if no charges were brought, that took place routinely in the UK from 2004. The European Court of Human Rights deemed this a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides a "Right to respect for private and family life", and the UK government was forced to change its approach. The same logic would seem to apply in the case of the digital DNA held on our mobile phones. Let's hope the UK police consider this before rolling out their disproportionate plans.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 3:57pm

    Common Sense

    So don't carry a "mobile phone".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:13pm

    How convenient

    I'm sure that it'll make this much, much easier:

    UK government staff caught snooping on citizen data

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Another AC, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:25pm

    Re: Common Sense

    Is this sarcasm? I can't tell but I hope it is.

    As a thought experiment, let's see if that 'common sense' still actually makes sense as we ratchet up the invasion of privacy shall we?

    The Government is rifling through your mail... "So don't use the postal service", right?

    The Government is following you everywhere in your car... "So don't drive cars" right?

    The Government is searching your home while you're out... "So don't live in your home" right?

    The Government is arresting its political enemies... "So don't go out in public" right?

    At what point does the argument stop making sense for you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:35pm

    Prior Art

    I'm sure that it'll make this much, much easier:

    UK government staff caught snooping on citizen data


    So what you're illustrating is that life imitates art over 30 years later , only with a far worse outcome?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:44pm

    Re: Re: Common Sense

    At what point does ranting like a lunatic about things you wish weren't true but can't prevent work for you? You can bawl your eyes out all you want and nothing will get any better. Some people, at least, can be smarter than them.

    If you can't live without a cell phone, give up now, because you're part of the problem you're bawling about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:47pm

    Re: Re: Common Sense

    It stopped making sense when you said they would be following me in my car. How did the government get into my car? Who taught the government how to drive? Do they have a drivers license, and does it have a RFID chip in it? Will they fill up the gas tank when they are done?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Economic Survivor, May 18th, 2012 @ 4:48pm

    Nick Clegg, UK's Deputy Prime Minister, fudged the issues spectacularly in a letter to me today - http://economicsurvivor.net/2012/05/18/cleggs-response-on-snooping-means-what-exactly/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    icon
    Zos (profile), May 18th, 2012 @ 5:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Common Sense

    so, head in the sand is the way to go huh? good luck with that. Best cut off that broadband, i hear they can see through your webcam too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 6:49pm

    Android encryption

    Does anyone know how this scraping would fare against Android encryption available in Android 3 and 4?

    Am I right in thinking than Android encrypts contacts, call records, etc. and so these would not be legible, but a separate app would be required to encrypt the SD card? Yes? No?

    Are there any known weaknesses to Androids encryption?
    Are there any back doors that Google can access?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Paul`, May 18th, 2012 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Common Sense

    Wow, what an excellent plan of attack. Don't call the government out when they invade your privacy, just adapt and move on....
    Do you carry a drool bucket around with you or do you let people slip on the puddles your slack jaw and vacant expression cause?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Paul`, May 18th, 2012 @ 7:50pm

    Re: Android encryption

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Pixelation, May 18th, 2012 @ 10:06pm

    Time for you Brits to start carrying a spare phone with Goatse pics.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 10:55pm

    Time to start following Richard Stallman atitude... don't carry a mobile phone.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 18th, 2012 @ 11:04pm

    Re: Re: Android encryption

    Thanks Paul, I know about WhisperCore. It's only for Nexus One and Galaxy Nexus. Also, since it was sold to Twitter the download has been pulled.

    Android includes encryption options now (since 3.0) but I'm pretty sure it doesn't do the SD card.
    I want to know how secure it is, and what it encrypts/what it doesn't encrypt....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), May 19th, 2012 @ 1:16am

    No, it's time to start hassling these clownboat knobjockeys about their phones. After all, if the cunts at the Met can search your phone, then it should also be your legal right to search their phones. After all, they ahve nothing to fear, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2012 @ 2:46am

    good old UK. if any other country goes down the citizen surveillance route, they're condemned. now the UK is/has started it's own website visit/e-mail surveillance, this is just an extension that they 'forgot to mention'. personal privacy is going. human rights are going. freedom is going. and think back to why it started and who started it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Richard (profile), May 19th, 2012 @ 3:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Common Sense

    Ever heard of ANPR?

    They don't need to physically follow you to achieve the same effect.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Dave, May 19th, 2012 @ 4:29am

    Outrageous

    This is just getting worse. Why should police hang on to the data just for the sake of it if there has been no charge and, presumably, no crime? I don't want any old Joe Bloggs raking through my private information. How can they be allowed to get away with such an outrageous idea? If it was a private company doing this, The Information Commissioner's Office and the EU would be on to them (hopefully) like the proverbial tone of bricks. Anyone who is up to no good will encrypt anyway. This has been stated so many times and yet those allegedly in charge don't seem to take this on board.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Joe, May 19th, 2012 @ 5:40am

    If it works for DNA, video, fingerprints, license plate scanners, and the color of your hair, then why not for cell phones? Yeah, this is totally not going to come and bite them in the a** within the next 20 years. All it would take is a war and the enemy getting ahold of all this data, to totally make a cluster**** out of the UK. Even the secret police back in the 1940's had this all come back to haunt them when their side lost the war in Germany. That is not even mentioning how it was used against non-police.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    abc gum, May 19th, 2012 @ 7:21am

    I'm guessing that the police will soon be (if not already) selling the information gathered to whom ever will pay for it.

    This coming from a country where rampant phone hacking has been acceptable behavior for many years. Only recently has this become an issue because of the many complaints there were finally a few which had sufficient influence. As it is with these situations, there are a few scape goats which have their hands slapped, politicians promise safeguards will be put in place and everything goes back to the way it was before the big commotion started.

    It is interesting how the two sets of rules also applies in this situation. It is perfectly acceptable to spy upon the little people, trampling their rights in new ways everyday. But if there is even the possibility of big wig rights encroachment, the hammer will fall hard my friend.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), May 19th, 2012 @ 10:17am

    Re: Outrageous

    Because it's easier to feign forgiveness than to ask permission.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    earl, May 19th, 2012 @ 11:30am

    The latest android version (ice cream sandwich) Has the option for you to encrypt your device(including SD card) and have it decrypt upon putting in a key at boot.

    So if you get in a scuffle with the police, unless filming them is pertinent at the time, turn your phone off, and the filth wont be able to rifle through your stuff uninvited.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

    Re:

    I keep malware on my phone. Anybody tries connecting it to something, they're going to get stung.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 20th, 2012 @ 4:08pm

    Thank goodness we live in the U.S.A. where things like this don't hap...uh, never mind...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Son-Tae,CHU, May 23rd, 2012 @ 8:32pm

    Please help me Sir or Ma'am

    Hello sir ~ ~

    I live in South Korea is son-tae,CHU.

    Scotland Yard web site address if you know you let me know.

    $ 16,000.00 to the woman I met on the internet and got voice phishing.

    two days ago I send a evidence document by BBC broadcasting evidence and transfer documents and sent her home address and office address, but no reply yet.

    South Korea did not receive help from the British Embassy.

    E-mail address or web site if you facet London police station, then please let us know.


    Thanks a million.


    2012.5.24

    SON-TAE,CHU

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Son-Tae,CHU, May 23rd, 2012 @ 8:45pm

    e-mail address

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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