Home Dating apps How the Police Abuse Phone Data to Persecute LGBTQ People

How the Police Abuse Phone Data to Persecute LGBTQ People


All of the lawyers interviewed by Rigot said that the police collect data from WhatsApp, and that 22 of the 29 court cases included photos – some explicit – of galleries in chats. “What it takes for individuals to be prosecuted is so little that even the presence of specific apps on their phone is incriminating,” says Rasha Younes, researcher with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights program. from Human Rights Watch.

Device searches

When law enforcement officials need to circumvent your smartphone’s encryption, they often turn to sophisticated hacking tools such as technology from Israeli company Cellebrite. But police in the three countries included in the report do not appear to use such tools. Instead, those targeting LGBTQ people rely on low-tech tactics to access data on people’s phones and rely on physical access to devices.

Street arrests, like Adham’s, forced phone inspections, informants, and cops creating fake profiles on dating apps can all lead to law enforcement getting their hands on someone’s phone. . “They’re not that tech-savvy,” a lawyer told Rigot. (All attorneys interviewed for the study were quoted anonymously to protect those who may face retaliation from law enforcement or government.) Law enforcement officials often get the words passwords or PINs to people’s devices during interrogations or interviews, the report said. They can then manually search through phones, starting with dating apps and messengers. Police often use specific terms or keywords to search for what they want to find, Rigot says.

Around the world, there are numerous documented cases of LGBTQ communities being targeted by law enforcement and other groups creating fake profiles on dating apps, such as Grindr. The cases are often similar: those responsible create accounts using photos they find online, connect with their targets and chat with them to gather “evidence” or possibly set up meetings with them or arrests. can take place. Dating apps have been used for entrapment in India, Senegal and Kenya. Reported cases in Egypt date back to 2014.

“I have received many complaints about the use of dating apps by police officers, for example, who create fake profiles with the aim of tricking people, says Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the independent expert of the United Nations United Nations on gender-based violence and discrimination. orientation and gender identity. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to privacy; if authorities interfere with that privacy, says Madrigal-Borloz, they need a legal justification to do so. In the cases investigated by Rigot in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia, it does not appear that law enforcement obtained warrants to search people’s devices.

Madrigal-Borloz says her office has received many complaints from around the world about phones being stolen without their consent. In many of these cases, “the data is actually accessed usually by threat or coercion,” he says. “This includes the threat of, for example, carrying out forced anal examinations in countries where this practice is practised.”

“Most of the evidence-gathering is illegal, because the consent of the accused is not even requested. In many cases, they are forced to open their device to be examined or opened directly if it is not protected by a password,” explains Alaa Khemir, a lawyer and human rights activist based in Tunisia. who contributed to the study. The report details instances in which LGBTQ people went to police stations to report a crime against them and then, after being questioned, became the target of officers who suspected they might be LGBTQ.