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U.K. Phone Seizures: Police Allowed To Seize Mobile Data Of Travellers

07/16/2013 11:59 EDT | Updated 07/16/2013 12:00 EDT
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Travellers making a trip to the U.K. could have their mobile phones seized by police and their mobile data downloaded without their consent as part of the country's anti-terrorism laws.

The search and seizure law applies to any traveller coming to the country via any international rail, sea or air ports and does not require police to have grounds for suspicion before taking away their phone. The provision is part of the United Kingdom's 2000 Terrorism Act as well as the 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act and was unearthed as part of a review of the country's terrorism law review, notes the International Business Times.

Should border police choose to confiscate your phone, they can download your photos, contact lists as well as call logs and hold onto them for "as long as necessary." The contents of texts and emails are safe from the police's prying eyes, though any contact information gleaned from messages are fair game, as reported first by the Daily Telegraph.

David Anderson, a lawyer and the independent reviewer of the terrorism laws, says the info obtained has helped in keeping the country safe from terrorism.

“Information downloaded from mobile phones seized at ports has been very useful in disrupting terrorists and bringing them to justice," Anderson told the Daily Telegraph, adding that travellers shouldn't be concerned when visiting the country.

“Ordinary travellers need to know that their private information will not be taken without good reason, or retained by the police for any longer than is necessary.”

While the law has the range to sweep millions of travellers who visit the U.K. for business or pleasure, the actual numbers of those affected comes to around 60,000 travellers, according to the Verge, though the number of confiscated phones remains uncertain. Factor in that in 2012 alone nearly 70 million people travelled through London's Heathrow Airport, a number provided by the Airports Council International, and that works out to less than one per cent of travellers' phones subjected to random search and seizure.

What do you think of the U.K.'s border official's ability to take away your phone and hold onto your data? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @HPCaTravel

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