Phone Data Extraction: digital stop and search

The use of ‘mobile phone extraction’ tools enables police forces to download all of the content and data from people’s phones. This can apply to suspects, witnesses and even victims – without their knowledge.

Phone with a closed zipper on the screen

With no clear policies or guidance on the use of this technology, individuals are unaware of their legal rights in terms of:

  • whether data is only taken when necessary and proportionate;
  • getting the police to delete this data when there is no legal reason to retain it, particularly if they are innocent of any crime;
  • ensuring data is held securely to prevent exposure of their personal data as a result of loss of records, misuse or security breach. ​​

As the use of this technology is unregulated, we don’t know how this data is used, how it is stored and secured, and if it’s ever even deleted. 

What does PI want

Privacy International is calling for: 

  • the use of this intrusive technology is properly regulated, with independent oversight so that abuse and misuse does not go undetected;
  • a proper warrantry regime to be implemented, so that the technology cannot be used arbitrarily;
  • people to be informed of their rights if the police want to search their phone.