Just a day after the UK Information Commissioner raided a firm for possessing a covert database of construction workers’ personal information, it emerged that the police force is keeping a potentially illegal database listing the details of political activists and journalists.
In a Guardian newspaper investigation, the Metropolitan Police force, which is said to have pioneered surveillance techniques at demonstrations, was accused of storing details including names, photographs, political associations and video footage of protesters and reporters.
The information is stored on CrimInt, a centralised database used by all police to catalogue criminal intelligence, the report said.
The information was obtained by the paper via Freedom of Information requests, court testimony, an interview with a senior Met oficer and police surveillance footage.
According to reports, the data is held by the police for up to seven years, and reviewed each year, so it is unclear whether the ICO will decide to investigate possible breaches of the Data Protection Act.
However, the storage of details belonging to people who have not been convicted or accused of a crime could contravene the Human Rights Act.
The news comes as the ICO seeks to harden its stance on organisations believed to be breaking the Data Protection Act. Last week it began proceedings against a Droitwich firm it accused of holding the details of over 3000 building site workers without their knowledge.
Public confidence in the UK government's policies on data handling is at an all time low after a string of high profile public sector data breach incidents, and widely criticised proposals for a centralised database of communications data.
The police and Home Office also came in for recent criticism after the police were given new powers to hack into individuals’ PCs without a warrant.