In a recent crime policy implemented by the U.K. police, victims are required to surrender their private data for their cases to be pursued. These data include personal information from various devices including mobile phones, smart watches, laptops or tablets.
Nick Ephgrave, Assistant Commissioner of the U.K. National Police said in a statement to the New York Times:
“Police have a duty to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry.”
This inquiry will now cover devices of victims, witnesses, and even suspects, especially if the crime involves victims and suspects who know each other.
While this new policy may seem reasonable enough and could really help the investigation of a particular crime, many raised their concerns on the implications of this policy to the privacy of information – so much so that it may further discourage victims to report crime instead of encouraging them. This is true for sensitive offenses such as sexual assault.
To alleviate concerns, the UK police have prepared a form to signed by victims when they report a crime committed to them. This form gives consent to the policy to extract data from their devices, These data include emails, text messages, social media records, contacts, and even internet browsing history. If a victim refuses to give the police access to this information, the case will not be pursued.
Although the UK police will only access information related to the case under investigation, it is still unclear how much personal data they will extract from victims’ devices. Concerned citizens are wary of the fact that the police may discover incriminating information and use them against the victims instead of helping them solve the crimes committed against them.
Another concern about this new policy is the fact that victims or even suspects will not get back their devices for as long as the investigation is ongoing.
Addressing the various concerns against the new policy, assistant commissioner Ephgrave said that they will never want victims to feel reluctant in reporting crimes due to intrusion in their privacy. This is the reason why the national form was implemented.
The question now is, who decides what personal data are sufficient enough to pursue a criminal case? Unfortunately, the national form does not indicate any standards acceptable for the police that would be deemed appropriate for the investigation of a crime.