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Thames Valley Police defends mobile phone data extraction powers

Thames Valley Police (TVP) has the power to download texts and encrypted messages, emails and passwords from phones without consent.

All data from the mobile phones of suspects, witnesses, and victims can be downloaded and stored without a warrant.

TVP confirmed that it can extract data for any kind of crime, no matter how minor, if it believes it will aid its investigation.

Millie Graham Wood, Privacy International solicitor, said: “A search of your phone will reveal so much more about you than a search of your home, so it is incredible that the police are doing it on a massive scale without warrants, without informing or asking people, without any regulation, without any clear legal basis.”

Police officers extract mobile phone data using ‘self-service hubs’ operated by specialists around the county. The extraction only needs to be signed off by a senior investigating officer.

In ‘exceptional circumstances’ extraction of witnesses’ and victims’ data can be approved by an investigating officer.

The data is stored on DVDs and kept for a varying amount of time. For example, if a defendant is jailed for less than six months, the data will be destroyed after six months.

Ms Graham Wood said: “If you own a modern smartphone, you are carrying a massive amount of personal information – not only about yourself but also about your friends, families and colleagues. ”

A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: “Thames Valley Police uses a variety of techniques to solve crime.

“It is apparent that mobile phones are increasingly being used by criminals to assist them in their activity.

“Giving more of our officers access to the technology to interrogate phones means they can better investigate crime and bring offenders to justice.”

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