Now, European governments are using immigration smart phones to expel them.
Across the continent, immigrants face a booming mobile phone forensics industry, which specializes in picking up smart phone messages, location history, and even WhatsApp data. In 2017, Germany and Denmark passed laws to enable immigration officials to extract data from mobile phones seeking asylum seekers. Belgium and Austria have also proposed similar legislation, while Britain and Norway have been searching for asylum seekers for many years.
Last week, European leaders held a meeting in Brussels to discuss a new and tougher immigration management framework. According to Dublin's regulations, more than 7000 people were expelled from Germany last year.
When Marie Gillespie, a sociology professor, studied the telephone usage of immigrants to Europe in 2016, she was worried that mobile phones were generally monitored. Gillespie said: "mobile phones are a driving and helping tool for their travel, but they also pose a threat to them." She said. In response, she saw immigrants retain as many as 13 different SIM cards and hide them in different parts of the body while they travel.
This may become a problem for immigration officials. They are increasingly using mobile phones to verify immigration status and ascertain whether they are eligible for asylum. In Germany, only 40% of asylum applicants in 2016 could provide official identity documents. The other 60% of the applicants confirmed their accent authenticity through language analysis - using artificial translation and computer - and verified the mobile phone data.
In the six months after the German mobile search Act came into force, immigration officials searched 8000 mobile phones. If they doubt the story of the asylum seekers, they will extract the metadata - digital information of the phone, showing the user's language settings and where they call or take pictures.
To this end, the German authorities are using a computer program called Atos, which combines technologies developed by two mobile forensics companies (T3K and MSAB). It takes only a few minutes to download the metadata. A spokesman for BAMF, a German Immigration Agency, said: "the analysis of mobile phone data is by no means the sole basis for deciding to apply for asylum." But they do use these data to find inconsistencies in their stories.
Denmark, on the other hand, checks their identities by asking their immigrants about their Facebook codes. The refugee group has noted how the platform has been increasingly used to verify the identity of asylum seekers. The Danish immigration office confirmed that they did ask asylum applicants to check their Facebook personal data.
Throughout the European Union, rights groups and opposition parties have questioned whether these searches are constitutionality, causing concerns about their invasion of privacy and the impact of criminals such as criminals.
Michala Clante Bendixen of the Danish refugee welcome movement said, "it seems to me that it is a violation of privacy to ask for a Facebook password or to open a person's cell phone. For asylum seekers, this is usually the only personal or private space left by him or her. "
Privacy campaigners have noticed that digital information may not accurately reflect the role of a person. "Because there's so much data on people's mobile phones, you can make very severe judgments, which may not be true," said Christopher Weatherhead, a technical expert at Privacy International.
A spokesman for the British interior ministry said they would not check the social media of asylum seekers unless they were suspected of crimes. Nonetheless, British lawyers and social workers have reported that social media searches have actually taken place, though it is unclear whether they reflect official policies. The Ministry of interior did not respond to requests for clarification on the matter.
Privacy International has investigated the ability of British police to search mobile phones, indicating that emigration officials can have similar powers. "What surprised us was the degree of detail of these cell phone searches. The police can access information even if you can't access them, such as deleted messages, "Weatherhead said. His team found that the British police were helped by the Israeli mobile forensics firm Cellebrite. Using their software, officials can access search history, including deleted browsing history, and they can also extract WhatsApp messages from some Android phones.