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Concerns Raised Over Police Scotland’s Use of Cyber Kiosks

Ross Kelly


Police Scotland IT Upgrade

MSPs have raised concerns over the use of cyber kiosks by Police Scotland, which can be used to access mobile device data.  

Officials on the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing have highlighted concerns over privacy rights, data security arrangements and the legality of using the devices which were introduced earlier in 2018.  

More than 40 cyber kiosks have been deployed across Scotland following trials in Edinburgh and Stirling.  

The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Scottish Human Rights Commission have also raised concerns over the legality of using the technology.

Growing Concerns   

On 13th September, Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry McLean told MSPs that the legal basis for accessing data on electronic devices varies. Police can access devices through obtaining warrants or legislation such as the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.  

He also told MSPs that police can access certain devices under common-law powers, which can include an individual providing a device based on its relevance to an investigation.  

Appearing before the sub-committee, McLean told MSPs that Police Scotland would not proceed with its rollout of the technology if there is no legal basis for its continued use.  

Despite this, the police service confirmed that it will continue the rollout of cyber kiosks between December 2018 and early 2019.  

John Finnie MSP said: “MSPs and the public will be rightly concerned to hear that the police service is very close to rollout out cyber-kiosks while major questions remain unanswered over the legality of using these machines. 

“The sub-committee has been at the forefront of raising questions about cyber kiosks, and we will continue to hold police leadership to account for their decisions in the coming weeks.”

Courting Controversy 

Previous pilot schemes involving cyber kiosks saw 18 officers access more than 375 phones and 260 sim cards.  

These devices were accessed during investigations in what Police Scotland described at the time as ‘low-level crime’. 

A freedom of information request filed in April showed that information extracted from devices could not be taken within a specific time frame; meaning officers must access all photographs, messages and other forms of data.  

Additionally, through using this technology the police service could also access previously deleted data.  

Privacy rights groups were vocal in their response to the pilot schemes at the time. Big Brother Watch Legal & Policy Officer, Griff Ferris, told DIGIT that police were “indiscriminately downloading huge amounts of personal information from phones and other devices without people’s knowledge or consent and a warrant.”

He added: “There must be a limit on police use of this far-reaching technology, including updates laws to provide checks and balances.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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