A new bill has been announced by the Irish Minister for Justice that will allow the Irish police (Garda) to acquire the passwords and encryption keys of electronic devices belonging to anyone they are searching. The bill aims to modernize the powers of the Garda in both stop-and-search and warrant situations, who will create a written record for each situation the new powers are used in.
The announcement comes with a new wave of tightened legislation and expanding powers, which Minister of Justice Heather Humphreys claims will make gardaí powers more clear.
"The law in this area is currently very complex, spread across the common law, hundreds of pieces of legislation, constitutional and EU law,” says Minister Humphreys, reported by The Irish Mirror.
"Bringing it together will make the use of police powers by gardaí clear, transparent and accessible”
"At the same time, where we are proposing to extend additional powers to gardaí, we are also strengthening safeguards. I believe this will maintain the crucial balance which is key to our criminal justice system while ensuring greater clarity and streamlining of Garda powers."
Also included in the bill are extended detention periods of up to 48 hours for multiple offenses, in which time search warrants will enable gardaí to search through mobile devices and PCs for evidence. In cases of suspected terrorism, the Garda will be able to randomly stop and search a vehicle that they suspect could be involved, including searching all password-protected devices on the person.
Special allowances will be made for people with impaired capacity and children, in which members of the Garda should take all actions necessary to uphold the rights of the individual.
The bill was announced on Monday.
As expected of a bill involved with electronic privacy, the announcement has been met with a fair amount of criticism. One Twitter user by the name of Michael Donohoe noted that the legislation may conflict directly with a section of EU Law (EU Directive 2016/343 part 25), which upholds rights to privacy and to not incriminate oneself, including the handing-over of evidence that may lead to self-incrimination.
It remains to be seen what phone manufacturers have to say, if at all, with prominent phone-maker Apple taking a staunch stance on privacy laws of the consumer against prosecutors. In 2015 and 2016, Apple objected to at least 11 orders by the US district courts to unlock phones or extract data to aid in prosecution, with a number of cases gaining media attention as Apple continues to refuse to unlock electronic devices.