Police Scotland has announced it will begin the phased roll-out of controversial cyber kiosk technology on the 20th of January.
Cyber kiosks are desktop computers, which will be located in police stations across local policing divisions. The technology allows specially trained officers to triage mobile devices to determine if they contain information that could be of value to a police investigation or incident.
This will allow lines of enquiry to be progressed at a much earlier stage and devices that are not relevant to an investigation to be returned quicker, according to Police Scotland.
Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “We’re committed to providing the best possible service to victims and witnesses of crime. This means we must keep pace with society. People of all ages now lead a significant part of their lives online and this is reflected in how we investigate crime and the evidence we present to courts. Many online offences disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people in our society, such as children at risk of sexual abuse, and our priority is to protect those people.”
Graham added: “Increases in the involvement of digital devices in investigations and the ever-expanding capabilities of these devices mean that demand on digital forensic examinations is higher than ever. Current limitations, however, mean the devices of victims, witnesses and suspects can be taken for months at a time, even if it later transpires that there is no worthwhile evidence on them.
“By quickly identifying devices which do and do not contain evidence, we can minimise the intrusion on people’s lives and provide a better service to the public.”
Police Scotland said it recognises that the use of personal data as a key resource for law enforcement raises questions over the balance between intrusiveness and the need to maintain public consent.
These valid concerns have been the subject of extensive consultation and scrutiny by internal and external reference groups, which have supported the development of publicly available information explaining policies and processes, along with impact assessments to mitigate any concerns.
Data ethics is an area of growing importance across UK policing and Police Scotland is developing a Data Ethics Governance Framework aimed at balancing requirements to comply with data protection and privacy regulations, ensure fair and reasonable data usage, maximise the use of data for public good and ensure the legitimacy of the police service.
The Crown Office, Procurator Fiscal and independent senior counsel have affirmed the existence of a legal basis for the use of cyber kiosks.
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Police Scotland will only examine a digital device where there is a legal basis and where it is necessary, justified and proportionate to the incident or crime under investigation.
Cyber kiosks used by Police Scotland will not be enabled to store data from digital devices. Once an examination is complete, all device data is securely deleted from the cyber kiosk, the force confirmed.
41 cyber kiosks have been procured and will be located in police stations across all policing divisions. It is anticipated all will be operational by the end of May 2020.
Significant consultation has been undertaken with external advisory and stakeholder groups and Police Scotland held a series of public engagement events on digital forensics in 2019.