00:45 GMT07 April 2020
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    It's sometimes necessary for law enforcers to seize mobile phones and other devices from criminal suspects. However, Finland's police seem to be abusing this authority, as the total number of searches they performed rose by a third last year, along with the number of complaints that were received due to the confiscations.

    At the beginning of 2014, a new law on police coercion came into force that gave Finnish cops the ability to confiscate phones and search their content. In 2015, 5,500 devices were searched for data, a marked increase of 33.1 percent in comparison to 2014, Statistics Finland noted. According to inspector Joni Länsipuro of the Finnish Police, device inspection is now a routine procedure.

    The content of thousands of various technical devices has been picked apart by the Finnish police in connection with a number of offences. Authorities try to harvest possible clues from computers, mobile phones, cameras and memory sticks in their search for incriminating e-mails, social media posts, photos and videos. Under Finnish law, however, a person suspected of an offense does not need to help the police gain access to the stored data by providing them with password or a PIN code to the device. On the other hand, the police are not allowed to damage personal property.

    All the Finnish police departments reportedly possess the necessary resources to pry open data stored on various devices. This procedure is performed in connection with different types of crimes, such as cybercrimes, economic crimes, violent crimes and drug offences.

    "Different devices have different degrees of protection nowadays. However, we have methods to bypass protection. By all means, let us try and succeed more often," Sami Siurola, chief inspector of National Bureau of Investigation told Finland's national broadcaster Yle.

    In Finland, police officers may take possession of technical equipment for the transmission of data. After the search, the device must without undue delay be returned to the owner. If a search cannot be performed immediately, the device is confiscated.

    Remarkably, the number of complaints has risen in lockstep with the number of police searches conducted in private homes. Petitions are filed to courts to determine whether or not preconditions were met and the search was carried out in accordance with the law.

    According to the eastern Finnish newspaper Savon Sanomat, the number of complaints lodged is double what it was the year before.

    "Any police operation is based on the principle of least harm. Nothing is to be messed up or infringed upon, unless absolutely necessary. If something is accidentally broken, the police are liable," Juha Korhonen, investigation director of the Eastern Finland Police Department told Savon Sanomat. 

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