MSPs have called for a halt on the rollout of technology that allows Police Scotland to harvest data from mobile devices or laptops.
The rollout of cyber kiosks had been previously delayed over concerns that the use of such technology could be illegal. Police Scotland has spent more than £500,000 buying the devices from an Israeli company.
Trials of the devices took place at stations in Edinburgh and Stirling and saw officers access more than 370 mobile devices and 260 sim cards.
Speaking before the justice sub-committee on policing earlier this year, Chief Constable Iain Livingston admitted that Police Scotland had failed to “fully assess” the use of cyber kiosks before they were trialled.
He said: “I acknowledge that there was a failure to fully assess and communicate what we were seeking to do. There was an acknowledgement we didn’t reach out as broadly as we could.
“We didn’t absolutely establish and articulate the clear legal authority and rights-based authority for the use of the equipment. We didn’t fully articulate the benefits and, in my view, the ethical priority that we needed to have to introduce the equipment.”
In a report published this week, the committee has recommended that the scheme is not resumed until ‘greater clarity’ on the legality cyber kiosk use is confirmed.
The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) was also criticised in the report for a lack of scrutiny and effective oversight of the trial scheme. The committee highlighted that people whose mobile devices were searched were not informed that cyber kiosks were being used as part of a trial.
Justice sub-committee convener John Finnie commented: “Prior to the introduction of any new technology to be used for policing purposes, an assessment of both the benefits and the risks should have been carried out.
“It appears that, in relation to the introduction of cyber kiosks, only the benefits were presented by Police Scotland to the SPA, with the known risks not provided. The SPA, for its part, seems to have accepted the information provided with very little critical assessment.”
Finnie added: “Even the most fundamental questions, such as the legal basis for using this technology, appear to have been totally overlooked. This sub-standard process has resulted in over half a million pounds worth of equipment sitting gathering dust.
“Clearly, this is not an acceptable situation. The sub-committee wants to work with the Scottish Government and the stakeholder groups belatedly assembled to consider the implications of introducing cyber-kiosks to find a solution which would provide the necessary safeguards for the use of this new technology.”