London's Metropolitan Police are to start using new software that will dramatically fast-track the process of extracting data from a suspect's mobile phone.
The Aceso mobile phone data extraction software from intelligence industry specialist Radio Tactics will reportedly enable officers to extract call and messaging info on the spot, even if the SIM card is locked.
The idea is to streamline the evidence-gathering process, enabling officers to act on incriminating information found on a suspect's phone on the spot, rather than having to wait for results to return from the digital forensic lab, which in low-level cases often takes weeks.
Met deputy assistant commissioner Steven Kavanagh said the software would speed up the evidence-gathering process dramatically, effectively giving each Borough its own forensic lab rather than everyone having to rely on a central facility burdened struggling under an ever-increasing workload.
“Mobile phones and other devices are increasingly being used in all levels of criminal activity,” Kavanagh said. “Our ability to act on forensically-sound, time-critical information, from SMS to images contained on a device quickly gives us an advantage in combating crime, notably in terms of identifying people of interest quickly and progressing cases more efficiently.”
The other side to that argument, however, is that in today's climate of the ends justifying pretty much any means, a system that gives officers the power to scan a suspect's mobile phone on the spot based only on the suspicion of wrongdoing is open to significant abuse and raises very real privacy concerns, even assuming there are safeguards in place.
But with social networks and messaging platforms such as BlackBerry's BBM having been widely blamed for playing a central part in last year's London riots, those concerns are unlikely to be any more than half-hearted.
However, Radio Tactics boss Andy Gill has indirectly implied that Aceso has difficulties penetrating BlackBerry's security measures, with TechRadar quoting him referring to RIM's mobile hardware “an interesting challenge”.
Which suggests that even if BlackBerry wasn't already the number one choice for looters and miscreants last year, it sure will be now.