New Police Super-Database Raises Privacy Concerns - RightsInfo

New Police Super-Database Raises Privacy Concerns

A new super-database being developed for the police could severely harm our right to privacy, according to civil liberties campaigners. 

The advocacy group Liberty, known as ‘the watchdog for people’s rights’, believes the super-database poses a ‘grave‘ threat to privacy. Liberty has withdrawn from the Home Office’s public consultation in protest.

What is the Super-Database?

Police officersImage: Wikimedia Commons

The law enforcement data service (LEDS) will combine the police national computer and the police national database with additional databases to create a ‘super-database.’

The police national computer holds criminal convictions and, according to the College of Policing, ‘provides real-time checks on people, vehicles, crimes and property.’ It also links to the European-wide Schengen Information System.

The police national database shares ‘local information and intelligence on a national basis’ with all police forces and wider criminal justice agencies in the UK.

A government document has highlighted that much of the information in the proposed super-database will not relate to criminal activity.

“The volume of records involved is substantial; there are around 55.4 million driver records and 54.8 million vehicle records whilst there are approximately 10.7 million criminal records, thus non-criminal records form a substantial part of the PNC [police national computer].”

The database could become available to other bodies and departments, including the Border Force and HM Revenue and Customs.

‘A Grave Threat to Our Privacy’

Pro-privacy demonstrationImage: Elvert Barnes/flickr.com

Civil liberty campaigners are concerned for a number of reasons.

They feel that the new super-database could introduce a mass state surveillance tool without the knowledge or consent of citizens.

Campaigners also believe that the collection and storage of citizens data is intrusive – as well as posing a very real threat to privacy.

Liberty’s Hannah Couchman explained to the Guardian: “Having enormous amounts of our personal information held on this super-database represents a grave threat to our privacy. While the collection of a few pieces of personal data can seem innocuous, combining it with other information can create an intrusive personal profile.

“In the UK, we have a long-held principle of policing by consent. We must be able to trust the police to protect our privacy and our fundamental rights and the Home Office must take seriously the threats this super-database raises.”

There are also significant concerns about what would happen if the super-database were to be breached.

Article 8 of the Human Rights Convention protects our right to privacy. However, this right is not absolute and must be balanced against other rights, such as freedom of expression, and requirements like security and investigating crime.

Campaigners also expressed concerns that the super-database could reinforce the kinds of biases and prejudices which lead to discriminatory policing – with Liberty describing the growing use of algorithms and data driven surveillance as ‘sinister’.

The Metropolitan Police’s gangs matrix database has been widely criticised, with Amnesty International  describing it as ‘racially discriminatory’ and something which ‘violates human rights.’ Campaigners also argue that the police’s growing use of facial recognition technology at public events impacts the right to freedom of expression and privacy.

Featured Image: King’s Church International/Unsplash.com

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About the Author

Rahul Verma

News Editor
Rahul is Rights Info's News and Social Media Editor. He is an experienced reporter and editor covering the under-represented, arts and culture and migrant communities, and has worked for national newspapers, youth media projects and creative agencies. He is hugely passionate about social justice, equality and a fairer world. To email Rahul, drop him a line. View all posts by Rahul Verma.
New Police Super-Database Raises Privacy Concerns
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