Research agencies in multiple countries around the world use mobile device registration, mainly smartphones, as one of their main sources of information. For this, agencies resort to the use of forensic tools for mobile devices (MDFT), technology capable of extracting all the information contained in a device, greatly facilitating law enforcement.
Although not a widely known phenomenon, it is a fact that law enforcement in the U.S. and other countries has widely adopted the use of MDFT for their entire justice system. Upturn information security specialists have conducted a thorough investigation, documenting the use of these tools by more than 2,000 law enforcement agencies, resulting in hundreds of thousands of information extractions made over the past 5 years.
A worrying fact in this regard is that this technology is not only used in cases related to major violations, but that any American citizen arrested for misdemeanors (minor theft, drug possession, poisoning, among others) may be subject to this severe scrutiny, not to mention that this practice can be applied without regard to any minority or as part of an incident of police brutality.
Because today almost 90% of people in the U.S. own a smartphone, this can also be seen as a harmful extension of the powers attributed to law enforcement: “Mobile devices have become the most important source of investigation for U.S. law enforcement agencies, even when it comes to citizens who do not face legal processes” , the experts mention.
The main problem is that the use of MDFT involves placing too much power in the hands of investigative agencies, so these tools should not be used only at the consideration of these agencies, so multiple groups of researchers, human rights defenders and political groups propose some measures to set specific limits on their use.
While these measures alone would not solve all the questions posed by the use of MDFT, experts believe that it is necessary to take the first steps towards the complete regulation of these tools, as well as to inform citizens in a concrete way about the real capabilities that these investigations may have on their lives.