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[liberationtech] Travellers' mobile phone data seized by police at border

LilBambi lilbambi at
Tue Jul 16 06:31:13 PDT 2013

I think this has been going on in the UK and USA for some time now.
And I am sure other countries are also doing it, although many might
not be considered 'free' nations as the UK and USA boast.

On Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 9:45 AM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at> wrote:
> (leave your data at home in an encrypted cloud (you cannot
> be asked to decrypt data not in your possession), treat
> seized devices as sacrificable due to potential backdoors
> installed during examination so use cheap disposables when
> travelling and restock from a known good source)
> Travellers' mobile phone data seized by police at border
> Thousands of innocent holidaymakers and travellers are having their phones
> seized and personal data downloaded and stored by the police, The Telegraph
> can disclose.
> Tourist using mobile phone at an airport
> A police officer can stop any passenger at random, scour their phone and
> download and retain data, even of the individual is then immediately allowed
> to proceed Photo: ALAMY
> By Tom Whitehead, and David Barrett9:01PM BST 13 Jul 2013Comments206 Comments
> Officers use counter-terrorism laws to remove a mobile phone from any
> passenger they wish coming through UK air, sea and international rail ports
> and then scour their data.
> The blanket power is so broad they do not even have to show reasonable
> suspicion for seizing the device and can retain the information for “as long
> as is necessary”.
> Data can include call history, contact books, photos and who the person is
> texting or emailing, although not the contents of messages.
> David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, is expected to
> raise concerns over the power in his annual report this week.
> He will call for proper checks and balances to ensure it is not being abused.
> It echoes concerns surrounding an almost identical power police can use on
> the streets of the UK, which is being reviewed by the Information
> Commissioner.
> However, in those circumstances police must have grounds for suspicion and
> the phone can only be seized if the individual is arrested.
> Mr Anderson said: “Information downloaded from mobile phones seized at ports
> has been very useful in disrupting terrorists and bringing them to justice.
> “But ordinary travellers need to know that their private information will not
> be taken without good reason, or retained by the police for any longer than
> is necessary.”
> Up to 60,000 people a year are “stopped and examined” as they enter or return
> to the UK under powers contained in the Terrorism Act 2000.
> It is not known how many of those have their phone data taken.
> Dr Gus Hosein, of the campaign group Privacy International, said: “We are
> extremely concerned by these intrusive tactics that have been highlighted by
> the independent terrorism reviewer.
> “These practices have been taking place under the radar for far too long and
> if Mr Anderson calls for reform and new safeguards we would be very
> supportive of that.”
> He added: “Seizing and downloading your phone data is the modern equivalent
> of searching your home and office, searching through family albums and
> business records alike, and identifying all your friends and family, then
> keeping this information for years.
> “If you were on the other side of the border, the police would rightly have
> to apply for warrants and follow strict guidelines. But nowhere in Britain do
> you have less rights than at the border.
> “Under law, seizing a mobile phone should be only when the phone is essential
> to an investigation, and then even certain rules should apply. Without these
> rules, everyone should be worried.”
> Under the Act, police or border staff can question and even hold someone
> while they ascertain whether the individual poses a terrorism risk.
> But no prior authorization is needed for the person to be stopped and there
> does not have to be any suspicion.
> It means a police officer can stop any passenger at random, scour their phone
> and download and retain data, even of the individual is then immediately
> allowed to proceed.
> It has been a grey area as to whether the act specifically allowed for phone
> data to be downloaded and recorded.
> But last month, Damian Green, the policing minister, laid an amendment to the
> anti-social behaviour, crime and policing bill, which is currently going
> through Parliament.
> It makes the express provision for the copying and retention of information
> from a seized item.
> The ability to potentially retain the data indefinitely could also spark a
> fresh row over civil liberties similar to the controversy around DNA sample.
> Laws had to be changed to end the retention of the DNA of innocent people
> after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2008 that keeping them was
> unlawful.
> Mr Anderson is expected to stress he is not against the power and that it is
> a useful tool in the fight against terrorism but that it must be used
> appropriately.
> In his report last year Mr Anderson said the general power to stop people
> under the terror laws were “formidable” and “among the strongest of all
> police powers”.
> Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, is already investigating
> whether the use of similar powers by police who arrest people are
> appropriate.
> It emerged last year that seven police forces had installed technology that
> allowed officers to download data from suspects’ phones but one industry
> expert suggested at least half of forces in England and Wales could be
> extracting mobile phone data in police stations.
> A spokesman for Scotland Yard, which has national responsibilities for
> counter-terrorism, said: “Under the Terrorism Act 2000 a person may be
> detained and questioned for up to nine hours to determine if that individual
> is a person concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts
> of terrorism as outlined in the Act.
> “As with any power to detain an individual it is used appropriately and
> proportionally and is always subject to scrutiny by an independent reviewer
> of UK anti-terror laws.
> “Holding and properly using intelligence gained from such stops is a key part
> of fighting crime, pursuing offenders and protecting the public.”
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