Met Police system raises concerns about privacy, says expert

By Sooraj Shah
18 May 2012 View Comments
A London police officer at a protest

A new Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) system that extracts data from suspects' mobile phones raises concerns about privacy, according to Vinod Bange, partner at law firm Taylor Wessing.

The system will form part of a 12-month project that will see Met officers in 16 boroughs analyse data from mobile phones that are seized from suspects during investigations.

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Mobile forensic firm Radio Tactics is providing the data extraction system. It will allow data such as call history, text messages and contacts to be examined.

“Investigators will have the opportunity to review data from examined handsets, SIM and memory cards at an early stage in the investigation to establish the relevance of the exhibit to the case. This information will then determine if there is a requirement for submission into the Metropolitan Police forensics department for a full examination,” read a statement from the Met.

“Data recovered from the devices is retained and handled in accordance with other data and information held by the MPS,” it added.

However, Bange believes that there should be a time limit for how long the Met can keep the data to ensure that it is being used lawfully.

“This move by the Metropolitan Police does call into question the possibility of a privacy breach. There is a fundamental principle under data protection law where personal data should only be used for a lawful purpose and more importantly, when that purpose has otherwise run its course, then the continuous use of that data becomes questionable and could be unlawful," he said.

"We are yet to learn the length of time that personal data is stored and this could be cause for concern,” he said.

Bange added that the public has a right to know the purpose for which their data is being accessed and how long it will be held, especially as personal data from social media and images could be stored on the mobile device.

“It’s clear that the Met need to address fundamental questions and provide reassurances around how the police will have a robust control environment that will ensure that data collection through mobile phones is not abused, either intentionally or unwittingly,” he said.

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