22:36 GMT +324 June 2019
Listen Live
    Norwegian police

    Norwegian Police Prepare to Forcibly Unlock Suspects' Mobiles

    © AFP 2019 / ODD ANDERSEN
    Tech
    Get short URL
    0 35

    Still stirred by the recent disclosure of the largest pedophile ring in the country's history, Norwegian police are striving to get the green light to opening mobile phones by force. This measure is widely believed to help uncover further cases of sexual abuse.

    New iPhones together with other smartphones can be locked and opened using the owner's fingerprints. By law, a person indicted has no obligation to cooperate with police and may refuse to unlock the phone. Whereas the FBI earlier this year paid millions to hackers to crack open a terrorist's iPhone, Norwegian police opts for a cheaper and more effective solution.

    According to newly proposed amendments to the penal code, police can gain access to fingerprint-locked phones using coercion. The judicious use of force is expected to help uncover cases of sex-related violence and abuse.

    "Several cases concerning abuse of children and adolescents were revealed by excavation of data," police lawyer Cecilie Gulnes told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.

    Earlier this autumn, the valid legislation proved to pose a problem for Norwegian police, who forcibly opened the phone belonging to a man suspected of assaulting several children. The case grew in scope as more shocking discoveries were made on the suspect's phone. Shortly afterwards, however, the Supreme Court ruled that the forced opening could not be allowed as evidence and thus was dismissed as inadmissible.

    "There are of course many conflicting considerations here, but opening a fingerprint-locked phone is a rather mild measure compared with other forceful remedies," Gulnes said. "Therefore it is important to have such an amendment to make it possible to detect abuse cases and stop abusers," she added.

    According to human rights lawyer Jon Wessel-Aas, there is nothing new with police striving to gain access to evidence, where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a criminal offence.

    "It is just a matter of how far into people's private life they can go during investigation," Jon Wessel-Aas told NRK.

    Given that cooperation with police is not compulsory, Wessel-Aas believes that many will refuse to unlock their phones of their own accord. Furthermore, encryption and technical progress may pose additional problems for police, as other ways of locking mobile phones may be found.

    "Applying force does not help, if you don't have the right finger or password," Wessel-Aas said.

    Ove Vanebo of the Norwegian Justice Ministry argued it was a step in the right direction to give police the right to unlock phones by force. According to him, this measure may yield extra evidence, as perpetrators may have proof stored on their mobiles.

    "Imagine people having filmed an episode of assault or unlawful sexual depictions of minors. It is important to have the necessary tools available to be able to obtain this kind of material," Vanebo told NRK.

    According to Vanebo, the police may be given the right to unlock mobile phones starting from next year.

    Related:

    Danish Police Resources Stretched Thin Amid Surge in Violent Crime
    Finland Launches Anti-Hybrid Warfare Center to Fight 'Imaginary Russians'
    Enemy Within? Finland Flustered by Growing Terrorist Threat
    Eyes on the Prize but No Norway Trip for Snowden
    Forewarned, Forearmed: Norway, Sweden Join Emergency Networks
    Tags:
    police, mobile phones, Scandinavia, Norway
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik