Obtaining data from digital devices – new guidance released

Our APP helps forces to take a consistent approach to extracting data from digital devices

Police forces must take a consistent approach when examining data from mobile phones and other digital devices to balance the rights of individuals with the need to carry out thorough independent investigations, our new national guidance says.

The widespread use of digital devices, mainly mobile phones but also laptops and other computers, mean the materials they contain, including text messages and photos, can often provide crucial evidence in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

The College’s Authorised Professional Practice (APP) on the extraction of material from digital devices provides clear guidance for forces in England and Wales to ensure the way police obtain material from digital devices complies with legislation and balances people’s rights to privacy against the absolute right of all individuals to a fair trial.

The guidance is intended to provide a clear summary of the powers and obligations which police have under the Data Protection Act 2018 and how that should be used with other relevant legislation and case law.

It provides police officers and staff with a set of principles to inform how they obtain personal digital devices – most often mobile phones but also laptops and other computers – from victims, witnesses and suspects for the purpose of an investigation and how they then extract the digital material from those devices.

It will also help the public to understand the responsibilities of the police when gathering evidence, obtaining devices and accessing the material held on them.

In the case of victims and witnesses, the guidance aims to ensure that material from mobile phones and other devices is obtained with their informed agreement and with minimal intrusion to their private lives.

Contact Information

Viktoriya Ilyukhina

Press Officer

College of Policing