back to article Privacy activists to UK plod: Wanna slurp folks' phone records? Come back with a warrant

Cops should need a search warrant to slurp information from peoples' phones, Privacy International has said as it calls for a government review into police data-extraction tech. The civil rights group has published a report into the use of such kit by forces across the UK, finding that more than half are already using it, and …

  1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    If history is any guide..

    ..Home Office civil servants will just rush an enabling act through to legalise whatever it is teh Police want to do....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If history is any guide..

      failing that the Police will just ignore it.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: If history is any guide..

        Or it needs someone asked to unlock their phone to say, "Have you got a search warrant? No? Then I decline" and for it to go through the courts to make case law.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If history is any guide..

      What's the point of a Parliamentary Dictatorship if you don't make use of it...

      :(

  2. Anonymous Noel Coward
    Big Brother

    From the BBC...

    >[...] one former chief constable said obtaining a warrant in each instance would be "just not practical".

    Yeah! Fuck due process 'cause effort, AMIRITE?

  3. JakeMS

    Quick!

    These people must have something to hide! Someone call the anti-terror squad.

    We must protect our surveillance! Don't let these terrorists stop us!

    - Yours truely, Police State and co.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Quick!

      ... and don't forget to think of the children either!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Trollface

        Re: Quick!

        Or the Nazi Pug!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2017 claims that much similar data is 'volunteered' under sec.7 & sec.8 of trrrzm act 2k

    ~/PHANTOM-PARROT.pdf

  5. phuzz Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "A similar confusion exists at the national level: the report notes that the Lancashire force said national guidance came from the National Policing Improvement Agency. However, this agency has since been replaced by the College of Policing, which said that it doesn't provide any such guidance."

    It was replaced in 2012, in case anyone was wondering what level of detective work Lancashire Police are capable of...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    47 forces across the UK, to which all but five responded

    And those five, that gave them the finger, what happens now?

    Oh, I get it, NOTHING happens...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given the serious problems we still face in the UK with discriminatory policing, we need to urgently address how this new frontier of policing might be disproportionately and unfairly impacting on minority ethnic groups, political demonstrators, environmental activists and many other groups that can find themselves in the crosshairs of the police

    Ah, so the police shouldn't just go after those who carry out criminal acts, as that is discriminatory, they should stop, search and arrest everybody equally, whether they have committed a crime or not.

    fuckwits.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      fuckwit

      so the police shouldn't just go after those who carry out criminal acts == minority ethnic groups, political demonstrators, environmental activists

      How is going after black people the same as going after those who carry out criminal acts? When did supporting the opposition become a crime?

      You got the fuckwit bit right.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Section 20

    Interestingly the "stored in any electronic form" amendment was added in 2003, so clearly someone considered SMS at this time and future developments.

    What with this and the 1984 telecommunications act used by GCHQ you have to wonder what other legislation is lurking and being used nefariously?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Section 20

      what other legislation is lurking and being used nefariously?

      OOh, OOh I know this one.

      How about Henry VIII orders to allow the PM to pass any law they like without bothering with parliament?

      1. John G Imrie

        Re: Section 20

        Na that will never happen, the PM is to busy. Pass it down to any cabinet member instead.

  9. DailyLlama

    Why would they need a warrant?

    Just ask Facebook for all the details, they've already got everything about you!

  10. Peter2 Silver badge

    Reading section 20 in the article, it basically says that the power to search computers is an extension subject to authority gained through sections 8 & 18 of the act. (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/60/section/20)

    Section 8 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/60/section/8) is not a problem as it specifies the lawful basis and process for getting a warrant.

    Section 18 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/60/section/18) says that if you have been arrested for an indictable offense then the police can enter your property and seize property likely to be directly related to the case without a warrant.

    But an indictable offense is murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and other serious crimes according to the courts definition of the term at the third bullet point on this list:-

    https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/you-and-the-judiciary/going-to-court/magistrates-court/

    So by the courts claim that 90% of cases are dealt with at the magistrates court, the power to search electronic equipment without a warrant accounts for under 10% of cases. If searches are being made in other cases, then doing so is already unlawful. There is no need for further laws on this; they already exist.

    Surely you just bring a private prosecution against the cheif constable in question for the common law offense of misconduct in public office?

    -The defendant must be a public officer

    -The defendant must have been exercising his power as a public officer

    -The defendant is either exercising targeted malice or exceeding his powers

    All three are present, so this would appear to be a rather open and shut case especially if the officer in question is basically saying "yeah, I know it's illegal to do this but getting a warrant is too much work".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Definition of Indictable :"rendering the person who commits it liable to be charged with a serious crime that warrants a trial by jury."

      In the magistrates court that includes many "either way" less serious offences where the defendant can elect to have a trial by jury - or the magistrate can decide a case is too complicated for them.

      That would suggest that the number of offences the police can claim to be indictable will be much larger than the 10% that previously went to a Crown Court.

      I suspect their fishing expedition vague suspicion of "conspiracy to..." - is considered "indictable" - as it can be a very serious offence. It presumably can be made to cover a very wide range of potential offences in order to effect an unwarranted search for possible evidence of same.

    2. gd47

      Actually, it's fairly easy for the police to manufacture an indictable offence...they just tag the words "conspiracy to..." on to whatever it is they decide to charge you with.

      The word "conspiracy" automatically makes the offence indictable (my son was charged with "conspiracy to cause criminal damage", which had to be tried at a Crown Court. The Judge happened to see through the police and CPS motives for bringing the trivial case and dismissed it immediately at a preliminary hearing).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The police are not your friend - their job is not to prove your innocence, just the reverse in fact.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "The police are not your friend - their job is not to prove your innocence, just the reverse in fact."

          Their role is to gather evidence - without bias to a presumption of guilt or innocence.

          Unfortunately human nature - and institutional mores - often appear to bias some officers to a presumption of guilt even when evidence contradicts that position.

          1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

            "The police are not your friend - their job is not to prove your innocence, just the reverse in fact."

            Their role is to gather evidence - without bias to a presumption of guilt or innocence.

            Their role should be to gather evidence without bias, but it isn't. As things stand, they gather evidence for the prosecution. Any evidence which may "prove innocence" is quietly ignored, and it becomes the accused's job (and that of his counsel etc) to "prove" his innocence.

            I know this because a friend of mine was charged with a very serious crime. He, and his wife, had to do all the research themselves to find evidence. Passing any of the information on to the police was greeted with a "that's your job, not ours" response (and passed on to prosecutors to discredit). They used delaying tactics and every dirty trick in the book to make life as difficult as possible for both him and his family and friends.

            When it came to disclosure, they were presented with an unorganised pile of papers the day of the trial and told "that's new evidence we've uncovered", with some important documents burried within a load of irrelevant garbage.

            Separately, a friend of a friend ended up pleading guilty to a crime which he was innocent of (and multiple eye witnesses had confirmed he was innocent of). The reason he did so, and served jail time, was that the dirty tricks played by the prosecution were taking him close to bankruptcy and mental breakdown. Six or seven times, he turned up in court (having paid for a week for the barrister) only to have the prosecution say they'd found new evidence and needed to consider it. The barrister still had to be paid for. He couldn't afford to keep doing that, nor could he face the stress of being randomly taken in for questioning whenever the police felt like it, so decided prison was a better alternative!

            So, to anyone who thinks the police are unbiased, you are wrong. Their job is to secure prosecutions and to assist the CPS (whether that's official or not, it's the way things are).

            Side note: before the issue with my friend, I generally trusted the police. Now, I wouldn't trust any of them one bit. If arrested, no matter the circumstances, the first words out of my mouth would be "lawyer".

          2. handleoclast

            Performance indicators

            Unfortunately human nature - and institutional mores - often appear to bias some officers to a presumption of guilt even when evidence contradicts that position.

            I think performance indicators such as arrest count have somewhat more to do with it than human nature or institutional mores. Get rid of arrest count as a performance indicator and you'd see fewer trumped-up charges.

            1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

              Re: Performance indicators

              I think performance indicators such as arrest count have somewhat more to do with it than human nature or institutional mores.

              I agree that they do not help, but I don't think they are the main reason.

              I would suggest that the main reason is that cops spend all day, every day looking at the criminal aspect of society. Because of this, they become used to seeing anyone accused of or under suspicion of an offence as guilty. I think it ends up as a form of confirmation bias, They start from the view that the person is probably guilty. All evidence confirming that is given more weight than evidence disproving it. Those who are found not guilty in court "got away with it".

              This is even more true in cases of a sexual nature, and is enhanced by the rules, now. Someone who accuses another of committing a sexual offence against them is immediately called the victim, and police are told to believe them in the first instance (i.e. presume the accused is guilty, the opposite of what our justice system expects). The accuser is called the victim, and the accused is thought of as a sexual predator from day one.

              So, I think "human nature - and institutional mores" play a bigger part than performance indicators.

              I don't say any of this to excuse police behaviour, BTW. I still think it's appalling how the police and justice system treat people, and also believe the justice system is set up to punish people harshly well before they are convicted (just look at the damage inflicted on people during the investigation and trial, the cost of good legal counsel, and the fact you can rarely recover this from the state even if the prosecution was deeply flawed from the beginning).

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        [...] they just tag the words "conspiracy to..." on to whatever it is they decide to charge you with."

        It isn't even a case of what they charge someone with. To make a charge they need a threshold of evidence to pass to the CPS.

        IIRC When they have no solid evidence to authorise a search warrant for a particular person - then they can use the conspiracy to... allegation to make an arrest that facilitates a building search.

        Nowadays such searches are probably aimed at getting access to mobile phones and computers which they can then take away to examine at their leisure. If they find nothing then the person apparently has no redress - as long as the correct formulaic words were used in making the arrest.

  11. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Seriously

    "Cops should need a search warrant to slurp information from peoples' phones"

    SHOULD? Why is this even a question?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Demolition Man nudges closer to being reality.

    Damn fine pin-table too by the way.

    1. Roj Blake

      Re: Demolition Man

      This is a truly scary prospect, mainly because I have no clue about how to use the three dolphins.

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    turned devices into "a pocket surveillance tool"

    Oh I don't know about that.

    Let me ask Siri . . .

  14. Haku

    Buttle. Tuttle.

    Films like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Idiocracy & Brazil should have warning labels attached to them saying "This film is not a guide, it is a warning."

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