Questions raised over police ‘cyber kiosks’ in Edinburgh

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Police trials of “cyber kiosks” may have been carried out in Edinburgh without a human rights assessment, MSPs have heard.

Detective Superintendent Nicola Burnett told Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing she did not know what assessments were carried out before the devices were tested in Edinburgh and Stirling in 2016.

Members of the committee said they were surprised and concerned at the admission, with convener John Finnie questioning whether the force was “putting the cart before the horse” in pressing ahead with the technology.

Police Scotland plans to roll out 41 kiosks across the country, with the devices - which allow officers to easily access relevant data on mobile phones - already procured.

During the trials 375 phones and 262 sim cards were accessed across the two cities.

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DS Burnett told the committee that as far as she was aware no specific advice was given to the owners of the phones regarding their rights in relation to the seizure because they had been taken “for a lawful policing purpose”.

Mr Finnie asked if any human rights, community impact or risk assessments had been carried out.

“I would need to confirm if they occurred at the time, I am unaware,” she said.

She added: “There is a human rights and equality impact assessment and a data protection impact assessment ongoing.

“At this moment in time we have procured but we have not rolled out these kiosks and so that is ongoing.”

Mr Finnie continued: “Are we not putting the cart before the horse, full stop here?

“Because what if that human rights assessment said there were implications and we’ve already had that expenditure of £1 million?”

DS Burnett said: “Because we use this technology anyway, we are aware of its use and efficacy throughout UK law enforcement.

“We absolutely understand the need and the requirement and we are completing those assessments and we will build in any of the findings of them.

“I would anticipate that there will be nothing that will come up in those assessments that we cannot address.

“Clearly if there is something that means that we have to stop absolutely that is something that would need to occur.”

She added: “This is nothing new for Police Scotland. This is a technology that we have been using.

“The only difference is that we have the opportunity to roll that out further and the reason we are doing that is, in terms of expediting inquiries, hopefully getting more devices back to people quicker if they do not contain any information to support that inquiry, and by doing so we get those devices that do have pertinent information on them to our hubs quicker.

“We can therefore process them quicker and by doing so we’re providing a better service to the public.”

Mr Finnie responded: “There were opportunities to fully reassure us on these matters.

“I have to say personally I, and I understand others, might not be.”

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