The National Assembly Research Service said, “The limitations of administrative investigation must be obeyed,” referring to the controversy surrounding forcing government employees to submit their cell phones for surveillance. The gist is the surveillance on public officials’ cell phones should be conducted in the minimum scope according to the law since it is done in the form of administrative investigation and additional search warrant is required if the investigation result is to be used for other purposes, such as criminal punishment. The National Assembly Research Service put a brake on the current practice, where government offices go beyond their authority to surveil government employees’ cell phones without any legal grounds.
Protecting the personal private information of public officials is as important as uncovering the corruption and irregularities of them. Restoring government employees’ deleted information on their cell phones using digital forensic tools requires a warrant from law enforcement has been discussed previously when the similar case occurred at the civil affairs’ office of the Cheong Wa Dae.
Cell phones are not just a means of communication in modern society. It has long been a passage, where you can look into someone’s very private personal life, such as who they meet or what they are interested in. It is very problematic to surveil public officials’ cell phones without any restrictions on the scope of investigation.
The government says public officials sign a consent form prior to any investigation. But considering that it is practically impossible for public officials to refuse to submit their cell phone when they are asked to by a higher authority or a supervision office, it is not different from seizing their cell phones without a warrant. The government should stipulate in law that it is against the law to take away public officials’ cell phones without a warrant and should proclaim that it will do its best to eradicate the ill practice before the revision of the law.
Investigative authorities often abuse their authority to look into the information that is beyond the scope of investigation during search and seizure of the cell phones of company officials and civilians. Once the prosecution and the police receive a comprehensive consent from a subject of investigation, it allows them to investigate areas irrelevant to the warrant as well. They often use the information they find in separate investigation or to force a confession. If a subject refuses to give a comprehensive consent, he or she has to observe the whole time-consuming investigation process. It is high time that we stop the violation of human rights during an investigation and come up with practical measures to help subjects of investigation exercise right to self-defense.
Furthermore, we should find ways to stop the illegal leak of investigation result. Phone records and text messages have been often used as a means to humiliate a subject of investigation. This act should be subject to severe punishment since it takes a toll on a third party as well as a subject of investigation.