PRISM and other government initiatives around the world may be tracking data behind your back, but things are getting a bit scarier now. If you're visiting the U.K, it's possible that your cell phone will be confiscated briefly while police take all of your private information off of the device, according to a report that was recently published by The Telegraph.
The police officers at the border don't need to tell you why they're collecting data, whether you're traveling through a rail station, an airport or into a port, and information can range from your text messages, pictures and emails, though they aren't able to see what you're sending.
"Information downloaded from mobile phones seized at ports has been very useful in disrupting terrorists and bringing them to justice," one reviewer of terrorism laws, David Anderson QC, told The Telegraph. Anderson said police need a reason to do so, but don't have to say why they are suspicious and that raises some of his concerns, mainly that there doesn't need to be a warrant to obtain the data. The searching is legal under the Terrorism Act 2000 and have been occurring for a while, though the actions have gone largely unreported.
The biggest worry here is that travelers can be targeted without knowing why and their data can be kept for as long as the police see fit. A Scotland Yard spokesperson said that it follows the same rules that it does when it detains someone and that phone searches are used "appropriately and proportionally and is always subject to scrutiny by an independent reviewer of U.K. anti-terror laws."
While the technique may help prevent acts of terror it is certainly concerning that innocent people may have their privacy breached without warning, and possibly without any real cause.
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