So, what happens when the Police are the ones who break the law and potentially cause harm to us?
Whenever there is trouble, the police are the first people we think of to call for help. They’re here to keep us safe, and we’re all very grateful for the work they do. They come to our aid when we need them. They put their lives and bodies on the line to keep the public safe. They put dangerous criminals behind bars to protect us.
Unfortunately, however, they have been known to breach our trust by leaking personal sensitive information…
Lots to look at
The Data Protection Act recognises the importance of protecting our personal information. It calls for everyone – every company and organisation – to abide by their legal duty to protect personal information by only using it in a strictly required and secure way, and to keep it safe at all times. So, what do we do when the upholders of the law break the law?
In the last few years, the police forces around our nation have been plagued by scandals over losing sensitive information, leaking personal information, and intentionally breaching data protection rights. A recent Big Brother Watch report found that over 900 police officers were involved in data breaches in 2011. These were just the cases where it was discovered and disciplinary action was taken; who knows how many more remain undiscovered?
In Humberside, a police officer did background checks on his friends and family; one officer in Essex did background checks on his ex-wife to give to divorce lawyers. That year, 243 police officers were consequently sacked for breaching the Data Protection Act.
A well-known serious case
The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) have made various investigations into data breaches by the police. In one case, South Wales Police was fined £160,000.00 for losing a video recording of an interview in relation to a sexual abuse case. The video was evidence for court and contained very graphic and sensitive information.
The investigation found that the recording was unencrypted and had been placed in a desk drawer before it was lost. The missing recording went unreported for two years; perhaps through a lack of training. It’s difficult to understand how a police officer – a person in the position of trust who deals with sensitive and important evidential files on a daily basis – does not have the relevant training to keep a recording safe.
“Without any doubt we would expect a professional police force, in a position of trust, dealing with this type of highly sensitive information from victims and witnesses on a daily basis to have robust procedures to keep track of the personal data in their care.”
[Anne Jones, Assistant Commissioner for Wales]
What can you do as a victim of a police data breach?
Police are upholders of the law, but they’re not above the law. We need security measures in place to prevent data leaks and breaches, as well as mechanisms to deal with breaches quickly and efficiently.
Mistakes are a part of life, but when you’re in a position of trust and confidence, you must respect that and do all that you can to remove any risk of mistakes even happening in the first place.
However, no matter how careful people are, breaches are somewhat of a fact of life. When those breaches occur, there are usually consequences. If you have been affected by a data leak or data breach by the police, don’t be afraid to take action. You have rights, and we can help and advise you.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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