Thursday, June 17, 2021

Issues with the new Garda Powers Bill

I have a piece in today's Irish Times which identifies some serious concerns with the new Garda Powers Bill. Here's an excerpt:

The sensitivity of your phone means that this week’s proposal from the Department of Justice for a new Garda Síochána Powers Bill requires close scrutiny. That proposal would introduce a new power for gardaí, when carrying out search warrants, to demand your password or PIN and require you to biometrically unlock your phone (or tablet, or computer) using your fingerprint or face.

As well as taking a copy of everything on the device itself, gardaí could also use the device to access any other service you use – such as your webmail, cloud storage, or online banking – and then take a copy of that data also.

The way in which the searches would be carried out is concerning. Failure to comply with the demand there and then (with no right to consult a solicitor) would be an offence exposing you to immediate arrest, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to €30,000. This power would also apply to the devices of “any person present at the place where the search is carried out”, including for example the parents or siblings of a suspect or someone who shares a house with them.

Full text