The civil liberties group Big Brother Watch have released a report claiming that UK police staff inappropriately accessed personal information on private citizens, for reasons including “fun” and “personal gain.”
The report claims that this information was accessed between June 2011 and December 2015 by approximately 800 UK Police staff. The evidence in the report was received through the use of Freedom of Information requests and details multiple ways in which private citizens information was abused. In one case a Metropolitan police officer used Snapchat to send a photo of a citizens drivers licence to a friend in order to ridicule the citizens name on the licence. Such an incident is extremely worrying but is nowhere near as worrying as some other incidents outlined in the report.
A police officer from the Great Manchester area supposedly warned someone that they were going to be arrested and another North Yorkshire police officer used the information database to perform a background check on a vehicle from his phone while off duty. A South Wales police officer was also recently dismissed after being found to have photographed private information to use later for “personal gain” the report says. Even more worrying, not all citizens information was kept securely within the police system.
It’s believed that in many cases, information from the database was shared with multiple third parties outside of the police and even with criminal organisations. There was a grand total of 2315 incidents of inappropriate access or distribution of data with no action taken on as many as 1238 of these incidents. This gross mishandling of citizens private information leads to much doubt over whether or not allowing police access to Internet Connection Records should be allowed. Internet Connection Records would include a list of every website a user has visited along with a list of devices used to access these websites, if a police officer is willing to Snapchat a drivers licence name to a friend then what would they do with someones full browsing history?
“The Metropolitan Police Service takes data security very seriously and will take robust action where it is shown that any of its 45,000 officers or staff have fallen short of their legal responsibilities or the Code of Ethics, employees are regularly reminded of their responsibilities and as the figures show only a small proportion of the Met’s employees fail to meet the required standards. However, we are not complacent and fully recognise that our role, and the trust placed in us, as the Capital’s police service requires the utmost discretion in the way we manage the huge amount of personal information we come into contact with on a daily basis.” a Metropolitan Police spokesperson told Vice owned Tech blog, Motherboard.
Lucas Nolan is a Journalism and Media student at Dublin Business School and a regular contributor to Breitbart Tech. He can be contacted via Twitter here: @LucasNolan_