back to article ICO evidence raises Freedoms Bill data worries

The Information Commissioner (ICO) has just published a critique of the Home Office’s Freedoms Bill, which is being sold to the public as reining in New Labour’s surveillance state. Although there is general applause for the fact that the Government has recognised that there has been excessive intrusion into privacy, the ICO’s …


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  1. JaitcH

    Plod and ACPO are too involved. They should butt out of the process.

    Plod is little different to anyone involved in computers - they HATE deleting data.

    Why is Plod even involved in the records deletion decision making business?

    Let's take Canada. It uses the British (common) law principle and it has a great working systems of criminal record handling.

    Assume you are convicted of any offence you criminal record remains until after, I believe 3 years the sentence is completed. In the event of a conviction of a felony the conviction remains until 5 years after the sentence is completed.

    To have a criminal record suppressed, and I mean really suppressed from the preying eyes of Plod, an application is made by the individual to the Federal Parole Board (as opposed to the provincial boards).

    These guys are in the forgiving business: they have street creds on both sides of the bars. They are the guys who let inmates out on parole AND they grant criminal record suppressions. Only a minister can overturn their decisions, say, for example, continued criminal activity.

    In UK the usual prejudiced/biased suspects are involved and even after 25-35-whatever years following a persons last criminal conviction they don't issue a 'clear/clean' record there are either the old convictions remaining or, in the case of records for immigration to other countries, a code that indicates to these countries there is a criminal conviction although expired.

    Does this really incentivise someone to go straight? I submit not, The UK should adopt the Canadian model as it has a good track record and has been in effect for decades.

  2. david wilson

    Wrong way round?

    With things like the DNA database, wouldn't it actually make more sense from a privacy point of view to keep the DNA profile itself accessible for matching purposes for some amount of time, but render the associated biographical information inaccessible except in the case where a match had been found?

    That way, the DNA profile could still be useful in linking future evidence to previously-sampled people, but the existence of the information couldn't be used to prejudice someone's normal life.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Basic disclosure exists - A tenner at your cop shop or £23 online

    They will probably subcontract it to Disclosure Scotland. They are just contractors though, the basic disclosure is something your local force is responsible for.

    This is routine for lots of employers who are concerned about offences of dishonesty.

    WTF because why are you asking the CRB to do something which already exists?

  4. Ben Liddicott
    Black Helicopters

    The problem is not DNA reliability, it is dandruff

    OK, there are some reliability problems around conditional probability.

    But the much bigger problem is dandruff. DNA doesn't prove you were there. It proves a tiny fragment of your body was there. Maybe the rest of you was, maybe not.

    If you are on the DNA database, and the police find your dandruff at the scene you WILL be arrested. Your alibi will be no good, because, hey, this is DNA right? And of course your mum would say you were at home.

    1. david wilson

      @Ben Liddicott

      >>"If you are on the DNA database, and the police find your dandruff at the scene you WILL be arrested. Your alibi will be no good, because, hey, this is DNA right?"

      Surely, for most scenes, if they're picking up stuff like specks of dandruff for DNA testing, rather than semen, or skin under fingernails, they're going to match *loads* of people to the scene, (or at least have loads of non-matched samples) so fairly obviously most people would be innocent?

      Isn't a rapid match better for an innocent suspect than one N years later when they get sampled as part of elimination for some other crime.

      Providing an alibi for last week is probably rather easier than providing one for many years ago.

      Though, of course, the ironic thing for people with (understandable) privacy fears is that one of the best alibis for where someone was many years ago might actually be a trail of where one's technology had been (mobile phone records, ANPR on a car, etc), or if one is really lucky, CCTV records showing on being somewhere else.

      1. Tempest

        Criminals should get jobs cleaning barber shops ...

        then, when they go on their next 'job', scatter the hair clippings around.

        This should really keep the Plod busy!

        1. Ben Liddicott

          They already collect cigarette butts from bars and pubs

          Anything to muddy the waters.

          At some point the police, judges, juries etc. will wake up to the fact that DNA evidence doesn't do what they want it to. DNA at the scene shows only that you were *probably* there, and they should still get some other evidence to be sure.

          Until then, be very afraid. If you are on the database, you are one cigarette but (or toothpick, tissue, whatever) away from arrest.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    read between the lines ...

    My guess is that we will shortly be learning about the current Information Commissioner's sudden, urgent, need to spend more time with his family. Not quite the way that they deal with disobedient officials in Pakistan, China or Russia, but we are learning.

  6. Sam Therapy
    Thumb Down

    As I have said in the past...

    It's a bullshit PR exercise, nothing more.

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