Kent & other Police forces take too much data from victims’ phones, says watchdog

Almost two years ago to the day, we ran the blog post

That post made it clear Kent Police, along with many other Police Forces in the country, have use of sophisticated and highly intrusive ‘mobile phone extraction’ technology, enabling them to download the entire content of someone’s phone – whether a suspect, witness or victim – often without their consent or knowledge and without a warrant.

Kent Police, along with Durham Police admitted back in Feb 2017 they  had no local guidance or policy for mobile phone seizure and extraction/examination of data.

Today, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) have released a report making it clear the Police – including Kent Police are extracting “excessive amounts of personal data” from the mobile phones of victims and witnesses during investigations and are in danger of discouraging the public from reporting crime; and the ICO calls for a new statutory code of practice to provide “greater clarity”.

Kent Police readily admitted they had no policy or guidance on mobile phone seizure and examination of the data. How then can Kent Police demonstrate they have taken the steps to safeguard your rights and freedoms with regard to your digital phone data, when their was no policy?

How is it possible for Kent Police, or any other force without a policy or local or national guidance, able to state the data extracted from a phone has been processed lawfully, whether you are a a suspect, witness or victim?

In Jan 2020, Nick Wright sent a Freedom of Information request to Kent Police asking five questions, about extraction from mobile phones and cloud based extraction. Only two questions were answered

. We note question 4 which asked:

  • Please provide a copy of the relevant local and/or national guidance/standard operating procedure/policy.

Kent Police refused to answer this question and cited the exemption at Section 31(1)(a)(b) of the FOIA, which relates to law enforcement.

We believe this is an improper use of s31 of the FoIA 2000, as a policy should not be exempt and ought to be in the public domain.

So two years after we and others raised this issue, Kent Police may not even have a policy, as there is no evidence put forward by them to prove a policy exists. What if anything will the Police & Crime Commissioner – Matthew Scott do about this situation?

The ball is now in parliament’s hands to introduce a statutory code of practice regarding data extraction from mobile phones. We don’t expect the Govt to act on this anytime soon.

The Shepwayvox Team

Dissent is essential in any Democracy.

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