Digital stop and search: how the UK police can secretly download everything from your mobile phone

mobile phone extraction phone unzipped

The ‘Digital stop and search’ report examines the use of ‘mobile phone extraction’ tools by the UK police, enabling them to download all of the content and data from people’s phones.

Privacy International have exposed a potentially unlawful regime operating with UK police forces, who are confused about the legal basis for the technology they are using. The police are acting without clear safeguards for the public, and no independent oversight to identify abuse and misuse of sensitive personal information. Seen in the light of ongoing issues of discrimination within the criminal justice system, this presents a serious cause for concern. 

Key statistics:

  • 26 out of 47 police forces (55%) that we submitted Freedom of Information requests to admitted they are using mobile phone extraction technology. 
  • Out of the remaining 21 police forces (45%):
  • Eight police forces (17%) have trialed or intend to trial this technology
  • Thirteen police forces (28%) either failed to respond to our questions or stated they hold no information on the use of this technology 

The 'Digital Stop and Search’ report includes eleven key recommendations including:

  • There needs to be an urgent independent review into this widespread, intrusive but secretive practice;
  • There should be a requirement for police to obtain a warrant for searching the contents of a mobile phone, issued on the basis of reasonable suspicion;
  • The Home Office must publish guidance for the public, regarding their rights if the police want to search their mobile phone.