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Police Scotland has announced plans to establish “cyber kiosks” that will allow officers to scan locked smart devices for evidence. 

The 41 new kiosks will be located in police stations across local policing divisions, where they will be operated by over 400 specially trained officers.

Each kiosk is essentially a desktop computer capable of performing data extraction, transfer, and analysis. The extraction devices are manufactured by Israeli company Cellebrite and are used around the world to retrieve data from cell phones, drones, and other types of digital technology.

Police Scotland said the Cellebrite devices will speed up their workflow and get smartphones that are found not to contain any information pertinent to an investigation back into their owners’ hands more quickly. 

“The technology allows specially trained officers to triage mobile devices to determine if they contain information that may be of value to a police investigation or incident. This will allow lines of inquiry to be progressed at a much earlier stage and devices that are not relevant to an investigation to be returned quicker,” said Police Scotland.

Scottish police purchased the Cellebrite devices two years ago; however, legal concerns over how the technology may impact the public’s right to privacy have delayed their deployment. 

The Scottish Human Rights Commission and Privacy International have each said that the legal powers under which Police Scotland will operate the new technology are “not sufficiently clear, foreseeable or accessible.”

Privacy International has expressed concerns over “the failure of Police Scotland to carry out impact assessments” in relation to the new technology.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham has said that the technology will only be used by the police where there is a “legal basis and where it is necessary, justified and proportionate” to an incident or crime under investigation.

Graham said: “Increases in the involvement of digital devices in investigations and the ever-expanding capabilities of these devices mean that demand on digital forensic examinations is higher than ever.

“Current limitations however, mean the devices of victims, witnesses and suspects can be taken for months at a time, even if it later transpires that there is no worthwhile evidence on them. By quickly identifying devices which do and do not contain evidence, we can minimize the intrusion on people’s lives and provide a better service to the public.”

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