Police Scotland failed to seek the advice of ICO about high-threat cloud machine

Police Scotland chose no longer to seek the advice of the tips regulator sooner than deploying its cloud-basically basically basically based digital proof-sharing machine, no topic identifying a preference of “high dangers” with the tips processing, freedom of information (FOI) disclosures possess published.

The disclosures moreover provide an explanation for that although the Info Commissioner’s Plight of enterprise (ICO) had beforehand been told of the dangers and acknowledged them, it used to be soliciting for clarification on their seriousness and why a formal consultation used to be no longer sought nearly three months after the machine’s pilot deployment with are living personal knowledge.

At the begin of April 2023, Computer Weekly published the Scottish executive’s Digital Proof Sharing Potential (DESC) carrier – reduced in dimension to body-ragged video supplier Axon for beginning and hosted on Microsoft Azure – used to be being piloted by Police Scotland no topic a police watchdog raising concerns about how the exercise of Azure “would no longer be lawful”.

Namely, the police watchdog mentioned there were diverse various unresolved high dangers to knowledge matters, akin to US executive discover entry to by the Cloud Act, which effectively provides the US executive discover entry to to any knowledge, saved wherever, by US companies within the cloud; Microsoft’s exercise of generic rather then explicit contracts; and Axon’s lack of capacity to have a study contractual clauses round knowledge sovereignty.  

On the opposite hand, correspondence disclosed beneath FOI principles between Police Scotland and the ICO now reveals the force believed it used to be no longer mandatory to formally seek the advice of with the regulator about DESC because there were “mitigations” in role and there used to be “ongoing and detailed engagement” with the regulator.

The correspondence moreover reveals that Police Scotland believed US executive discover entry to by the Cloud Act will most certainly be “no longer going” since the tips it holds in Microsoft does no longer match the components of that legislation. On the opposite hand, Police Scotland added: “There’s no acknowledged case legislation to this ticket illustrate this role.”

The correspondence moreover reveals that no topic being in corpulent stare of the high dangers thru old conferences with varied DESC partners, the ICO used to be following up with Police Scotland for clarification on the dangers and why there used to be no formal consultation initiated by the force in April 2023 – nearly three months after the machine had already been deployed.

We have worked closely with criminal justice partners to make certain all required knowledge security, protection controls and governance are in role and legally compliant sooner than any nationwide roll-out of the Digital Proof Sharing Potential machine
Police Scotland spokesperson

Computer Weekly contacted Police Scotland about every facet of the memoir and each disclose made by knowledge protection consultants.

“We have worked closely with criminal justice partners to make certain all required knowledge security, protection controls and governance are in role and legally compliant sooner than any nationwide roll-out of the Digital Proof Sharing Potential machine,” mentioned a spokesperson. “We recognise the final public pastime in DESC knowledge security controls and proceed to possess interplay with the Scottish Biometrics Commissioner and the Info Commissioner’s Plight of enterprise as required.”

Computer Weekly moreover contacted the ICO about why it handiest sought clarification three months after DESC’s roll-out, particularly given it had already been made attentive to the high dangers thru varied avenues, nonetheless bought no response on this level.

“That is a fancy field with diverse components to enlighten, so now we possess taken the mandatory time to learn about and provide our stakeholders with related steering. We enlighten that legislation enforcement companies can also goal exercise cloud providers that task knowledge originate air the UK the put appropriate protections are in role,” mentioned an ICO spokesperson.

Ongoing police cloud concerns

Since Computer Weekly published in December 2020 that dozens of UK police forces were processing the tips of over a million of us unlawfully in Microsoft 365, knowledge protection consultants and police tech regulators possess questioned diverse aspects of how hyperscale public cloud infrastructure has been deployed by UK police, arguing they are instantly unable to have a study strict legislation enforcement-explicit principles laid out in Section 3 of the Info Protection Act (DPA) 2018.

Computer Weekly then published in April 2023 that the Scottish executive’s DESC carrier used to be being piloted by Police Scotland no topic the decided knowledge protection concerns; and that Microsoft, Axon and the ICO were all attentive to these components sooner than processing in DESC started. The hazards acknowledged lengthen to every cloud machine faded for legislation enforcement applications within the UK, as they are dominated by the identical knowledge protection principles.

In January 2024, per questions from Computer Weekly about whether it moreover uses US-basically basically basically based hyperscale public cloud providers for its have legislation enforcement processing functions, the ICO despatched over a bundle of Info Protection Affect Assessments (DPIAs) – 495 pages of them – detailing a preference of programs in exercise by the ICO.

In accordance with these documents, the ICO is explicit that it uses a vary of providers that take a seat on Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure for legislation enforcement processing applications. On the opposite hand, it declined to give any touch upon its lawful foundation or conducting such processing, and the extent to which its have exercise of these cloud providers has shunned it from reaching a formal role on whether the exercise of these providers conflicts with UK knowledge protection principles.

Other contemporary FOI disclosures published that following Police Scotland’s pilot DESC deployment in January 2023, Microsoft admitted to the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that it may per chance not guarantee the sovereignty of UK policing knowledge hosted on its hyperscale public cloud infrastructure.

Namely, it confirmed that knowledge hosted in Microsoft infrastructure is recurrently transferred and processed international; that the tips processing agreement in role for DESC failed to quilt UK-explicit knowledge protection requirements; and that whereas the company has the capacity to make technical adjustments to make certain knowledge protection compliance, it is handiest making these adjustments for DESC partners and no longer varied policing our bodies because “no one else had asked”.

The documents moreover contain acknowledgments from Microsoft that international knowledge transfers are inherent to its public cloud structure.

Whereas long-awaited legitimate advice used to be despatched to Police Scotland by the ICO in April 2024 – which necessary parts the tips protection due diligence required and the draw it believes police cloud deployment will likely be made legally compliant – the regulator used to be firm that its steering “does no longer portray popularity of the roll-out or assurance of compliance beneath knowledge protection legislation”.

Police Scotland’s mitigations

Primarily basically basically based on components acknowledged by the SPA, Police Scotland’s DPIA for DESC – which used to be done and signed off on 19 January 2023, correct days sooner than the roll-out on 24 January – confirmed that two unmitigated high dangers remained.

These dangers were that sub-processors of Axon are no longer field to the phrases and stipulations, and that the suppliers are field to the US Cloud Act.

Reaching out to the force for clarification after its pilot deployment, the ICO mentioned: “We conceal that within the DPIA there appears to be like to be two high dangers which possess no longer been reduced nonetheless were ‘accredited’ and we wished to glimpse clarity on these.

“In our assembly of 19 January 2023, it used to be our working available were no unmitigatable high dangers mighty and which capability of this fact the processing may presumably glide forward, and the DPIA wouldn’t be submitted to us beneath Piece 65 DPA 2018 nonetheless rather it will in all probability presumably be supplied to us informally.”

Highlighting the two dangers, the ICO added: “As you are going to know if you possess applied a DPIA that identifies a high threat, and also you can not salvage any measures to minimize this threat, you possess to formally seek the advice of with us beneath Piece 65 DPA 2018. You may perhaps no longer glide forward with the processing except you possess done so.”

Responding to the ICO’s seek knowledge from for clarification on the high knowledge protection dangers contemporary with DESC in April 2023, Police Scotland’s knowledge protection officer (DPO) eminent that “to have a study Section 3, PSoS is evident that legislation enforcement knowledge (declare knowledge) can also goal indifferent be saved and processed within the UK in any appreciate conditions.”

The DPO then went on to stipulate the DESC contract mandates for UK-basically basically basically based knowledge storage and processing, which Axon confirmed in writing: “In delivering this requirement, Axon has partnered with Microsoft to raise the cloud infrastructure and storage of the DESC resolution. Microsoft’s datacentres are positioned within the UK and are assured to nationwide policing standards procedure by the Residence Plight of enterprise.”

They added that Police Scotland had undertaken due diligence in appreciate to sections 59, 64 and 69 of Section 3 of the DPA, and that Axon had supplied the force with the related knowledge.

This contains necessary parts of its contract with Microsoft, which states that knowledge will handiest be processed within the two Police Assured Gather Companies (PASF)-licensed datacentres within the UK; the related sub-processor agreements; and assurances that each one sub-processors engaged are field to the phrases and stipulations of the contract.

On the opposite hand, in later correspondence between the SPA and Police Scotland, from December 2023, the force’s chief skills officer outlined to the police watchdog’s DPO which of its providers “can also goal store and task knowledge originate air of the specified geo”, including Azure Cloud Companies; Azure Info Explorer (ADX); Language Working out; Azure Machine Discovering out; Azure Databricks; Azure Serial Console; preview, beta and varied pre-free up providers.

In their clarification email to the ICO, the Police Scotland DPO acknowledged that one of Axon’s sub-processors – Twilio SMS – used to be faded three conditions all the draw thru the pilot no topic the mitigations in role, which integrated the notification machine that alerted the force to its exercise.

“Mitigations belief of as for pilot were that Microsoft processes knowledge handiest within the two PASF-assured datacentres within the UK and info in transit is encrypted.  Extra diligence is now being undertaken with regards the explicit sub-processor engagement to be in accordance to the corpulent phrases and stipulations as per the contract,” they mentioned.

“PSoS recognises the dangers described nonetheless considers the exercise of a worldwide cloud supplier is the handiest valid and good resolution. That is told by contemporary working out across the threat and likelihood of our knowledge being exposed in such ways and the must plot a up to the moment and stable ambiance for the series and administration of legislation enforcement declare across disparate partners.”

Linking Police Scotland’s draw to Microsoft’s goal lately disclosed admission that it may per chance not guarantee UK knowledge sovereignty, self reliant security consultant Owen Sayers mentioned whereas the company must possess acted proactively to take care of the components with customers when it used to be flagged to them in early 2019, “the ache is truly down to police forces and varied legislation enforcement our bodies who possess tried to construct legally and operationally particular processing requirements on a commodity hyperscaler cloud platform without properly working out or caring about its boundaries”.

Regarding Police Scotland’s claims that Microsoft processed knowledge within the UK, Sayers mentioned: “We knew this to be a fraudulent role, and now now we possess proof that it has always been a fraudulent role. At the level of Police Scotland discovering this to be the case, they must possess stopped processing in DESC – in every other case they’ll be in breach of the act – and offshoring knowledge.”

Computer Weekly contacted Police Scotland for clarification on when precisely it became aware that Microsoft may presumably no longer guarantee UK knowledge sovereignty, as properly as what actions it took upon this discovery. It failed to reply on these parts.  

Commenting on the last-minute completion of the DPIA by Police Scotland – correct 5 days sooner than the pilot deployment – Nicky Stewart, a passe head of IT at the UK Cabinet Plight of enterprise, mentioned: “It’s no longer time in any appreciate. That’s the more or much less thing that ought to’ve been done months in advance if you’re in a fancy deployment love that.”

She added: “It smacks of, ‘We’re so deep on this, we haven’t got the time or the money to abet out, effectively we’re locked in, which capability of this fact, we’re correct going to circulate with it’. It begs the request how critical this to and froing between the ICO and the tips assurance of us is costing the taxpayer.”

The Cloud Act field

In their clarification email to the ICO, Police Scotland’s DPO extra added: “Any exercise of the US Cloud Act to discover entry to knowledge requires the supplier to decrypt the tips, and the supplier confirmed that this kind of seek knowledge from will most certainly be legally challenged by the seller and the shopper told of the seek knowledge from.”

In outlining the explicit provisions of the Cloud Act, the DPO eminent that any US executive try and discover entry to Police Scotland’s knowledge by an enlighten to Microsoft “would seem no longer going” since it relates to investigations and prosecutions taking role in a particular jurisdiction, and will most certainly be no longer going to consist of knowledge on US persons.

“Below the US Cloud Act field, DESC knowledge may presumably, in theory, be bought by US orders by warrant, subpoena or court enlighten. Although technically conceivable, it will in all probability perhaps seem no longer going that US authorities would compel Axon or Microsoft to enlighten knowledge (constituting a worldwide switch Below Section 3 DPA 18) held interior the DESC resolution,” they mentioned.

“That is no longer going to match properly interior the scope of the Cloud Act or Bilateral Settlement and PSoS make no longer think that it is the plot of the legislation. The Cloud Act is moreover more explicit about what persons it covers. The Act and Bilateral Agreements between two nation states are meant handiest to be faded to present consideration to voters or residents of the nation attempting to discover the enlighten. It is miles which capability of this fact no longer going that it extends that it will in all probability presumably no longer compel the free up of knowledge held about DESC partners’ crew and close users, who are no longer going to match the components of a US particular person or resident.”

On the opposite hand, the DPO moreover eminent: “There’s no acknowledged case legislation to this ticket illustrate this role.”

Whereas Police Scotland’s watchdog, the SPA, agreed in its have DPIA that the threat of US executive discover entry to by the Cloud Act used to be “no longer going”, it added that “the fallout will most certainly be cataclysmic” if it did occur.

It moreover eminent that the encryption keys are held by Axon, which manner “they’ll be ready to decrypt and provide the tips, potentially without our knowledge or consent, the put compelled by US authorities to make so” – one thing the DPO does no longer point out in their clarification.

The FOI disclosures extra present that Scottish biometrics commissioner Brian Plastow – who has referred to as on the ICO to formally investigate UK police hyperscale public cloud deployments after seeing its cloud advice for policing – moreover took a extremely varied stare of the dangers related to the Cloud Act and unauthorised knowledge discover entry to.

In emails from Plastow to 2 ICO workers – written in August 2023, sooner than an originate letter he published in October sharing his concerns with the machine – the biometrics commissioner mentioned: “I am certain in my have mind that DESC does no longer be aware the [biometric] Code of Observe in Scotland since the tips is no longer safe from unauthorised discover entry to. Any arguments to the contrary are undermined by the indisputable fact that knowledge will likely be accessed (beneath US legislation) without the tips or consent of Police Scotland.”

In a enlighten-up from September 2023, which warned the ICO workers of the originate letter about to be published, Plastow added: “I think that it is almost inevitable that (no topic any ICO stare on compatibility with UK knowledge protection legislation) they [Police Scotland] dash the threat of being present in breach of Theory 10 of the Scottish Code of Observe when we glimpse at this formally over the iciness.”

He extra outlined his two major concerns: “A prime ache (when it involves the code) is that a third-occasion contractor (Axon or Microsoft) may presumably renounce Police Scotland knowledge to a international jurisdiction without either the tips or consent of Police Scotland (no topic whether that renounce will likely be appropriate beneath the phrases of any US and UK agreement beneath the US Cloud Act).

“The 2nd major ache is that Microsoft Cloud platforms (including Azure) possess rather a glum music file of knowledge leaks and hacks emanating from adversarial states love Russia and China. As goal lately as July [2023], this has resulted in ravishing knowledge (including US executive knowledge) being successfully hacked from the cloud.”

In the closing enlighten-up disclosed between Plastow and ICO workers, from October 2023, the commissioner over again highlighted that Police Scotland does no longer preserve its have decryption keys.

“The argument that Police Scotland (and Scottish Authorities) look like rehearsing is that the dangers to knowledge sovereignty (and security) thru activation of the provisions of the US Cloud Act are low,” he mentioned. “Therefore, they idea to simply tolerate the threat that biometric knowledge (and varied ravishing legislation enforcement knowledge) will likely be accessed and bought by a international enlighten without their knowledge or consent.”

Commenting on Police Scotland’s breakdown of the Cloud Act provisions, Stewart mentioned the DPO used to be likely downplaying the threat, a minimal of unknowingly, because they make no longer story for the past behaviour of US intelligence providers love the Nationwide Security Company (NSA), which used to be published by Edward Snowden to be gathering knowledge on millions of non-Americans by an intensive international dragnet; or the aptitude for the US executive to walk into corpulent-blown authoritarianism by a regime alternate.

“Some deranged president sitting in his penal advanced cell chucking out govt orders to sequester knowledge isn’t beyond the limits of chance,” she mentioned, adding that rising geopolitical instability across the sphere may presumably moreover outcome in a alternate in attitudes interior the US executive, which may presumably make gaining access to the tips seem more permissible.

“You hear arguments round that, reckoning on who you’re talking to in executive, announcing, ‘Oh, they’re our allies so it doesn’t topic’.”

Stewart extra added that although the Cloud Act does handiest enlighten to US voters, “glimpse at what the NSA did”.

Computer Weekly contacted Police Scotland about all of these claims nonetheless bought no explicit response.

No need for consultation

In the email’s concluding paragraph, the DPO mentioned no formal consultation used to be sought with the ICO because “good mitigations as outlined were in role and the DPIA used to be being up to this level as recurrently as conceivable thru consultation with partners, lawful practitioners, knowledge protection and security representatives, and fashioned consultation with ICO for steering and advice”.

They added that because mitigations were either in role or planned, as properly because the “ongoing and detailed engagement” with the ICO, “it used to be no longer considered that a more formal consultation used to be no longer required sooner than pilot”.

I’m no longer bowled over that the ICO has done nothing about this – they’re bending over backwards no longer to salvage action in opposition to DESC because that can presumably require them to moreover salvage action in opposition to varied forces, and indeed in opposition to themselves for breaching the act within the identical manner
Owen Sayers, self reliant security consultant

Given Microsoft’s admission that it may per chance not guarantee the sovereignty of policing knowledge, even in UK-basically basically basically based datacentres, Sayers mentioned the measures build in role make no longer mitigate the dangers to the rights and pursuits of the tips matters and that, in any tournament, no longer the full mitigations were build in role sooner than the processing of are living personal knowledge.

“The fact they were in dialog with the ICO, which integrated a explicit course from the ICO to PSoS that they mustn’t ever glide are living with high dangers without referral, is a cause they SHOULD possess referred, no longer why they didn’t,” he mentioned.

“I am, nonetheless, no longer bowled over that the ICO has done nothing about this – they’re bending over backwards no longer to salvage action in opposition to DESC because that can presumably require them to moreover salvage action in opposition to varied forces, and indeed in opposition to themselves for breaching the act within the identical manner.”

The ICO advised Computer Weekly in April 2023 that it had “by no manner given formal regulatory popularity of the exercise of these programs in a legislation enforcement context” and confirmed in January 2024 that it used to be moreover using Microsoft’s hyperscale public cloud structure for legislation enforcement processing applications.

Whereas the newly released correspondence suggests the regulator failed to know in regards to the high dangers sooner than DESC’s deployment, emails from the ICO to DESC partners in December 2023 provide an explanation for these dangers were already acknowledged to the regulator by that level, as it made decided that these would contravene Sections 59, 64 and 66 of Section 3 of the DPA within the occasion that they were no longer resolved. 

Earlier Police Scotland exchanges with the ICO released in a old round of FOI disclosures provide an explanation for the force and regulator had conferences in December 2022 and January 2023 in which DESC and its dangers were mentioned.

Separate correspondence with the SPA – moreover disclosed beneath FOI – published the regulator largely agreed with the watchdog’s assessments of the dangers, noting that technical pork up from the US, or US executive discover entry to by the Cloud Act, would portray a worldwide knowledge switch.

“These transfers will most certainly be no longer going to fulfill the conditions for a compliant switch,” it mentioned. “To guide clear of a capacity infringement of knowledge protection legislation, we strongly suggest guaranteeing that non-public knowledge remains within the UK by attempting to discover out UK-basically basically basically based tech pork up.”

On the opposite hand, an ICO email from 20 January 2023 summarised the conferences, noting that the DESC pilot would begin on 24 January and would involve are living personal knowledge; that “there’ll likely be no international transfers inquisitive in regards to the provide of technical providers”; and that Police Scotland is “assured because the controller” that it is assembly the full legislation enforcement knowledge protection tasks.

Computer Weekly contacted the ICO for clarification of when precisely it became attentive to the high dangers, on condition that it had acknowledged them in December 2023 sooner than reaching out to Police Scotland for additional knowledge in April. Computer Weekly moreover asked what due diligence the regulator had done itself, or whether it used to be relying fully on assurances from Police Scotland, as properly as if its have exercise of Azure for legislation enforcement processing had an impact on its decision-making.

The ICO failed to acknowledge any questions in regards to the specifics of this memoir, citing the “pre-election period of sensitivity”. It has as an different forwarded the questions to its knowledge discover entry to crew as an FOI seek knowledge from.

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