What kind of data is accessed?
Troubling surveillance technology
In a U.K. poll commissioned by Privacy International, about half of users of mobile phones in the country are not aware of where their cloud data is stored, and nearly half believe that their mobile apps are not generating data that is stored in the cloud. About the same amount feel that they do not have a good understanding of how cloud-based systems work.
Most people are likely not aware that these agencies have this level of surveillance technology or that it is legal for them to use it in this way. If they consent to a search of their device, they may not be aware of the extent of the cloud data they are granting access to or that they are effectively giving permission to continual tracking of their private online activity.
Camilla Graham Wood, solicitor at Privacy International states:
“We are only just starting to gain a modicum of transparency around law enforcement use of mobile phone extraction, yet there are new concerning technologies on the horizon such as cloud extraction, about which very little is known.
“Cloud extraction technologies give law enforcement the ability to access eye-watering amounts of highly sensitive personal data, not only about individuals, but also their friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Concerningly, such technology also allows authorities to deploy facial recognition tech across people’s media as well as the ability to conduct continuous monitoring of an individual’s social media without them ever knowing.
“Much of this data is uploaded to the cloud, often without our knowledge, by the big tech companies. This risks making our personal data more vulnerable, not more secure. There is an urgent need for the companies who we entrust with our data to ensure they protect it from the tech which can be operated by unskilled operatives at the push of a button.
It is a matter of urgency that law enforcement act with a greater degree of transparency in relation to the new forms of surveillance they are using and that laws which are designed to protect against abuses are updated.”
The cloud extraction firms offer this surveillance technology internationally and are located all over the world: for example, Oxygen Forensics is based in the United States, Cellebrite is based in Israel, and Elcomsoft is headquartered in Moscow.
Privacy International has requested that 17 of the largest tech companies that this surveillance technology claims to have access to, such as Google and Facebook, to take a public position on its use. The group is advocating for greater transparency and legal safeguards, urging UK citizens to contact their local law enforcement agencies and ask about their cloud extraction technology and policies.
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