Tag Archives: Daily Telegraph

FOI Act reveals Merseyside Police breach Data Protection Laws

A report published recently in the Daily Telegraph has given details of over 100 cases of data breaches by police officers relating to a high profile prosecution case against Liverpool and England International footballer Steven Gerrard.

In 2009 Gerrard was tried and subsequently cleared of any misdemeanour relating to an altercation between himself and Marcus McGee. The incident which occurred in the Lounge Inn, Southport, saw Gerrard accused of affray, with Gerrard claiming he acted purely in self defence when he hit McGee in December 2008.

The case generated such interest within Merseyside Police that officers and staff, with no involvement in the case, breached data protection laws by accessing Gerrards file. Following an audit by Merseyside’s professional standards directorate, 130 officers have been cited as being involved in the data breach, with the file containing information such as Gerrards Date of Birth, address, the allegations against him and the photograph of him taken upon his arrest.

The Freedom of Information act reveals a significant rise in the same types of breach at Merseyside police when compared to the 2008 statistics. In 2008 there were 42 breaches, this rose to 152 in 2009 – the year of Gerrard’s case. However the breaches do not only pertain solely to the footballer’s arrest, other breaches included officers accessing classified data on relatives, friends and acquaintances. Merseyside Police regard the illegal accessing of information as a very serious act which has lead to some officers being force d to resign, others receiving written warnings and final written warnings about their behaviour.

A spokeswoman for Merseyside Police force states “Merseyside Police takes its responsibilities to manage and process personal information extremely seriously and expects employees to maintain the highest standard of professional behaviour when dealing with information security. Any inappropriate behaviour may result in criminal and/or disciplinary proceedings and all cases are investigated thoroughly by the Professional Standards Department”.

The report says that these breaches are common across Britain with the Lancashire Force experiencing a total of 84 breaches over a three year period. This included one officer running checks on his daughter’s boyfriend to expose the man’s criminal record for sex offences.


Government plans enforced retention of internet usage data

Under new plans suggested as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, the government in the UK could force internet service providers (ISPs) and eventually private businesses to store detailed data relating to the usage of internet services by customers and employees.

The terms could require that the data is stored for a year, although there is some suggestion that this period could be extended even further, if it is deemed necessary to ensure national security.

The government is hoping that the new plans will allow various organisations within law enforcement and the intelligence community to have a better hold on the way in which the internet is being used and abused by enemies of the state.

In the review it is said that by collecting data on internet traffic and being able to recall individual pieces of information, will allow prosecutors to use the details as evidence, in order to win convictions against individuals or groups who have malicious intentions.

The review says that 95 per cent of investigations into organised crime and terrorism have already relied upon communications data and expanding its availability and comprehensiveness, could only lead to a greater chance of dealing justice to those facing allegations of misconduct.

If the plans become legislation, all UK ISPs will have to store vast amounts of data relating to internet usage. However, it is also being suggested that individual firms might be required to carry their own storage solutions, so that they can present evidence in the event of investigation.

It has been estimated in a report written by the London School of Economics, that enacting this plan will cost up to £2 billion.

As part of the agreement signed upon the formation of the coalition government, both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders agreed that the unnecessary storage of data relating to online activity and email services, would be halted.

Campaigners are now concerned that the government is going to rescind on this agreement, with Liberty’s Isabella Sankey telling the Daily Telegraph, that, if these plans are put into practice, it will be a serious turnaround and will damage the privacy of normal citizens.

Report finds that victims of data loss should be compensated

A respected think tank has concluded that businesses would be more likely to adhere to data protection regulations if there was a tangible price placed upon data loss, allowing for those whose personal information is compromised to be reimbursed for their loss.

The Private Lives report from Demos suggests that consumers deserve to be notified if they are affected when a firm or organisation storing their personal data suffers a security breach and that the consumer should then be protected financially by that firm if their data is sold on for fraudulent purposes.

Demos also indicates that consumers might be better served by organisations if they were allowed greater influence over the ways in which their private information can be accessed and utilised by the firms.

The report outlines the idea for a negative league table, showing the hundred businesses considered to be the least secure when it comes to data, based upon prior incidences of loss or misuse.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which has only recently received new powers to issue substantial fines to firms failing to adhere to regulations, is also implicated in the report, as the think tank does not believe that its current powers are sufficient to deter poor practice in UK organisations.

Demos’ Peter Bradwell emphasised the importance of giving the public more control over their personal data in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, pointing out that without increased controls the average citizen would become subject to the restrictions and faults of those databases and organisations involved in the storage of their data.

Mr Bradwell said that the HMRC data loss of 2007, in which over twenty five million people were affected, had undermined levels of personal control over data. Perhaps of still greater concern, the lessons it might have taught businesses as to their vulnerability appear to have been far from heeded.

40 individuals contributed to the report and their opinions were formed based on information provided by experts in the public and private sectors.

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