MSPs call for police ‘cyber-kiosk’ rollout to be paused

08.04.2019

Members of the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing are asking police to stop their deployment of cyber-kiosks or ‘digital triage devices’ until there is greater clarity on the legal framework for their use in a new report out today. Cyber-kiosks are laptop-sized machines which allow police to bypass encryption to quickly read personal data from digital devices such as mobile phones or laptops.

At present, the police have bought 41 of these devices, which they had intended on rolling out to police stations across Scotland from the Autumn of 2018. However, the police have been unable to use them due to the lack of clarity about the legal basis for using them. Concerns have been extensively covered through scrutiny carried out by the Justice Sub-Committee on Policing, which has been investigating cyber-kiosks since May 2018.

In its new report, the Sub-Committee is criticising the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), for a lack of effective scrutiny and oversight, and Police Scotland, for not following best-practice prior to using these devices on a trial basis and then deciding to roll-out their use across Scotland.

During the trials, police in Edinburgh and Stirling searched the mobile phones of suspects, witnesses and victims without undertaking the required governance, scrutiny and impact assessments. Members of the public whose phones were seized and searched were not made aware that their phones were to be searched using cyber kiosks as part of a trial, the implications of this, and were not provided with the option of giving their consent.

The Sub-Committee is also asking the Scottish Government to consider its findings, and to provide clarity on the legal position of ‘cyber kiosks’.

Speaking as the report was launched, Sub-Committee Convener, John Finnie MSP, said:

“The Sub-Committee fully supports Police Scotland’s ambition to transform to effectively tackle digital crime. However, 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 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.

“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 provides the necessary safeguards for the use of this new technology.”

“The Sub-Committee fully supports Police Scotland’s ambition to transform to effectively tackle digital crime. However, 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.

 

Mr Finnie added:

 

“While the events related to the trials are in the past, the Sub-Committee remains concerned that this technology was used by frontline officers without any human rights, equality or community impact assessments, data protection or security assessments, and in the absence of any public information campaign.

“While the events related to the trials are in the past, the Sub-Committee remains concerned that this technology was used by frontline officers without any human rights, equality or community impact assessments, data protection or security assessments, and in the absence of any public information campaign. “That approach is harmful to the reputation of Scotland’s police service and potentially very serious for any victim, witness or suspect impacted by this. Any future trials must be carried out to a far higher standard, with more due diligence and forethought.”

Background


Information on the Sub-Committee’s scrutiny of cyber kiosks is available online here.

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