Denmark has released 32 prisoners over phone data errors

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The Danish government has so far released 32 prisoners on the basis of doubts that have previously arisen about the reliability of the telecommunications data used in their criminal cases. In any case, a total of 10,700 cases will be examined more closely.

The Danish medium DR writes that 32 detainees have been released so far and that number could rise further. Those releases are related to an earlier decision by the Danish justice; until October 18, no telecommunications data will be used as evidence for criminal convictions or arrests. For the time being, it is unclear how many cases have been affected by errors with the location data of smartphones and how many cases could have led to different outcomes if those errors had not been made.

Earlier, Nick Hækkerup, the Danish Minister of Justice, said that this concerns errors with regard to the conversion of the geographical coordinates, which are used to determine the location of the radiated transmission tower and thus the location of the suspect. The errors may have caused the wrong mast locations to be used. The problem is said to be partly caused by the it systems of the police and partly by the systems of telecom providers. An investigation is still ongoing, so it is not yet clear how serious the errors and how big the consequences are.

The minister previously prescribed that if telecommunications data plays a role in an ongoing case, it may be restarted. This does not always lead to releases, because there may also be other evidence apart from the location data.

An example of this is a criminal case involving two gang members, in which one of them has already been detained for 19 months for involvement in a shooting incident. In their case, errors in the telecommunication data from the police were found, but that turned out to be insufficient to be released in accordance with their request. According to one of the suspects, he was with his parents at the time of the incident, but the telephone information would indicate that the telephone was registered on a mast near the perpetrator. However, because there were also witness statements and other technical evidence, he is not released. The court finds that the doubt about the applicability of the location data does not mean that there is no longer a justified suspicion against the suspects.

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