PRIVACY INTERNATIONAL is calling for the UK's Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPCO) to probe whether cops have a legal right to extract data from mobile phones.
In a letter sent to Lord Justice Sir Adrian Fulford, the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, the privacy advocacy group says its concerned that the use of mobile phone extraction technology by coppers may in some - or all - circumstances constitute either an unlawful interception of communications or hacking.
"If it does, then the conduct engaged in is subject to your oversight," Privacy International says in its letter.
The letter highlights findings from a recent report out of Privacy International which revealed that the use of extraction kits - already used by more than half of UK police forces, and being trialled by a further 17 per cent - allows cops to download the entire content of someone's phone without their knowledge.
What's more, police have reportedly carried out such activity without first gaining a warrant, and whether the person in question is suspect, witness or even a victim of crime.
Given these findings, Privacy International is calling on the IPCO to conduct an urgent review into the police's use of the technology; assess if there is a proper legal basis for the use of the technology; and assess whether such intrusive search capability is necessary and proportionate.
Millie Graham Wood, solicitor at Privacy International said: "We are concerned that the police are able to download all of the contents of people's phone, when no one seems to be sure whether there is a law or statute that says they can do this.
"Policing isn't meant to be a free-for-all, where they can make up their own rules as they go along. We are really worried that the police's use of this highly intrusive technology is growing at an alarming rate, without any proper scrutiny, and crucially without people knowing their rights when faced with a police officer who wants to search their phone.
"If the use of mobile phone extraction technologies constitute either interception or hacking, then this raises a fundamental issue as to the legality of the actions by a large number of police forces over a lengthy period of time." µ
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