back to article Revealed: 779 cases of data misuse across 34 British police forces

A freedom-of-information request by Huntsman Security has discovered that UK police forces detected and investigated at least 779 cases of potential data misuse by personnel between January 2016 and April 2017. Despite the high number of cases, the same request also revealed that the vast majority of the 34 police forces …

  1. Steve Aubrey

    Just curious

    That would be 45 out of what total?

    Genuinely curious - that seems like a small sample size.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just curious

      I'd assume that the 45 are the 45 UK geographical police forces and they ignored BTP, Civil Nuclear Police and MOD Plod.

  2. Dr Who

    And precisely how many involve a background check on the ex's new shag?

  3. JaitcH

    Happens Everywhere and for All Manner of Data

    The worst offences are where government databases are linked to other resources, as in the UK and the USA. Some countries deliberately isolate databases so cross inquiries are individually approved.

    Travel databases are some of the most abused as they link not only to airline sources but all manner of associated travel databases. Police and border security have open access to all of them.

    And travel databases also access country passport information.

    Question: Why does the USA require to know MEAL PREFERENCES from PNRs (Passenger Name Records)?

    Best way to cross a border is still by ground transportation paid for in cash! And the British Passport Agency gets really wound up if you remove / obliterate visas in dated passports sent in for renewal.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Happens Everywhere and for All Manner of Data

      "Question: Why does the USA require to know MEAL PREFERENCES from PNRs (Passenger Name Records)?"

      Obvious answer: Because to the USA, halal==terrorist, vegetarian==evil hippie commie, gluten free==sillicon valley VC, etc

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When it comes to data they lost the public trust a long time ago and it's only going to get worse when we get high profile cases where someone has been blackmailed or committed suicide over their browser history by someone in authority.

    Every request for data should be logged with a reason for such a request, who requested it and when. That data should be searchable by the public on themselves. That would put a stop to it. Actually, even better would be credit style monitoring for data the government/police etc... has on you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The criminality of the police force is institutional. For far too long, the police have done whatever they liked without safeguards or checks or consequences and now we reach a point where a police officer having a quick look to reveal all about the ex's new partner is like and how any info might be used against them is an acceptable thing to do without even needing to hide what is going on in an open police station. I doubt this would happen with rank and file unless management and supervisors was also busy doing it too.

      Part of the trouble is that until the police are properly punished for their crimes, what is to stop them carrying on doing whatever they want? Even when it becomes public the police still usually seem to get away with any crimes they commit regardless of the actual evidence, so what is a wronged member of the public to do? It would probably take a newspaper campaign against a police crime for the government to (appear) to act these days, before promptly letting them off with the standard 'lessons learned, processes changed, safeguards revised' crap or an inquiry on it that doesn't finish for years and is deliberately far too limited in scope.

      Justice is certainly not being done and some things needs to change.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For far too long, the police have done whatever they liked without safeguards or checks

        RTFA. The article is making it very plain that the Police themselves are detecting misuse, are reporting it, are making the statistics available to anyone with an FOI request, and are apparently improving their systems. And then there's the separate PEEL report, yours to read at the click of a link.

        In what way does all that fail to be "safeguards" or "checks"? And if those didn't exist, how come you now know about numbers of incidents?

        As for corrective action, the police forces themselves are pretty much obliged to recommend prosecution for mis-use. "Covering it up" would ultimately leave themselves open to a charge of misconduct in a public office, for which a jail term is applicable.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          So if I committed 1000s of crimes and then issued a report saying that "mistakes had happened", "measures would be put in place" and "lessons were being learned" - you would be fine with that ?

          Or do you think the police might be a little more proactive ?

        2. Happy Ranter

          "As for corrective action, the police forces themselves are pretty much obliged to recommend prosecution for mis-use. "Covering it up" would ultimately leave themselves open to a charge of misconduct in a public office, for which a jail term is applicable"

          Aww, sweet. I believe in the tooth fairy as well.

          I would never suggest that when a plod's ex complains about her ex running checks on the new squeeze that the local nick all close up ranks, start stopping said ex-missus (and her new squeeze) for every minor traffic offence they can think of.

        3. Harry Stottle

          So painfully naive, it hurts

          Why should we trust the Authority's own response to an FOI inquiry?

          No one we trust has unconstrained access to the data for audit purposes. It is much more likely that we're seeing an (unknown) fraction of the real offences - enough to make us believe a proper job has been done - than reality.

          Until ALL authorities are under a mandatory requirement to implement audited access control with the data protected by an immutable audit trail, all attempts at "oversight" should be treated as, at best, suspect, at worst, criminal deception.

      2. Rob Gr

        I've always felt that crimes committed by the police should actually be punished more severely than amongst the general population, precisely because of the abuse of position and as a deterrent.

    2. teebie

      "Every request for data should be logged with a reason for such a request, who requested it and when"

      Within a week you would get the following request on the public record:

      SUBJECT: Plod 368's ex's new boyfriend

      REQUESTOR: Friend of plod 368

      REASON FOR REQUEST: In case he's a nonce or something

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The number of times (not many, really), I've sat in front of a police terminal, with a friend and a police officer, checking on the last known registered address of a particular person, and or where they're currently working, astonishes me.

    And on every occasion it was in an open office environment (at a police station). There was no hush-hush.

    I've personally had a foe find out information about me through her own job, and access to Government stored personal information.

    It's technology. And whilst they do everything they can to thwart digital criminals outside their circle, it doesn't appear much will change within.


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Confidence? What confidence?

    I think either the police might be a bit late to worry about risking losing the support of the public, or they simply don't care.

    Public confidence has already disappeared to varying degrees across large parts of the country, where the police are often seen as nothing more than criminals with badges even by ordinary, law abiding people.

    Accessing data without justification is just the tip of an unpleasant iceberg containing things like abuse of powers, institutional racism, misusing funds, perverting the course of justice, harassment, perjury, illegally tapping telephones, drug dealing, murder, handling stolen goods etc., even going as far as supplying prostitutes, heroin and unsanctioned days out of their police station cell (!) to incarcerated criminals in return for false testimony to try and lock up the innocent! What do the police expect people to think of them considering how they routinely behave?

    Revelations like this merely help to explain why the police have fallen so far in the estimation of the public.

    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

      Re: Confidence? What confidence?

      If you seriously think the British Police are indulging in all those activities... well you've either been taking too many drugs or need a mental health assessment, or both. Please take your upvoters with you when you go to the Hospital please.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confidence? What confidence?

        AC obv.

        Back in the day I purchased class B from plod members (always impressive how the drug seizures shrank in size as "excess" was sold off ).

        Female friend of mine left plod due to vile sexist behaviour (again back in the day), some of her stories of other behavior (drink driving, shakedowns of known crooks for hush money etc) were eye opening.

        Of course, it may all be 100% legit these days, but I doubt the institutionalized corruption, sexism etc. is really expunged..

  7. TiddlyPom

    UK Police Corruption is endemic

    The UK Police is rife with corruption and none of the investigations have come any closer to lowering the level let alone eradicating it. Anybody remember Operation Countryman (plenty of corruption found, nobody was ever successfully prosecuted). The IPCC was described as the following in a 2012 report - "woefully underequipped and hamstrung in achieving its original objectives. It has neither the powers nor the resources that it needs to get to the truth when the integrity of the police is in doubt." The more powers (and IT resources) that the Police are given, the greater will be the misuse of them. Nobody (who has any common sense) trusts the Police these days. Just search on YouTube and watch some of the videos on Police corruption (which are horrifying). UK Police routinely break the law in order to achieve the outcomes that they want or their own agendas. I cannot see monitoring systems improving things unless they are overseen by an external agency which is impartial and not controlled by a government agency. The government (or any party) will not let that happen as it might look a bit too closely at their corrupt antics (or their snouts in the trough) too. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: UK Police Corruption is endemic

      There are two kinds of police. Corrupt police and accessories after the fact

    2. analyzer

      Re: UK Police Corruption is endemic

      It's getting worse because a law was passed that evidence gathered illegally could be used in a court of law against the defendant. The opposite is, of course, not allowed because only the state are allowed to act illegally.

      This comes under the exclusionary rule and was modified to allow this.

      see here and here if you want to confirm that we are never ever innocent any more.

  8. Daedalus

    Guess they had to add "Legitimacy" to the tests

    Otherwise it would have been a PEE survey.

    Sounds of Sir Robert spinning in grave...

  9. Haku

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Stop giving them so much unrestrained power!

    1. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      Even though (Baron) John Dalberg-Acton's quote refers to Vatican 1, a longer quotation is even more relevant: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    OMG. It seems some of these forces actually have audit trails to track who runs queries.

    And occasionally someone actually checks them for unauthorized activity.

    Who'd have thought it?

    I am of course joking. All sensitive data should be protected my multiple layers of control.

    Starting with "Don't collect it in the first place."

    BTW I don't think any ex UK plod who's been arrested for corruption has ever written an autobiography where they admit it.


    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: OMG. It seems some of these forces actually have audit trails to track who runs queries.

      They also never admit to being wrong. Even when a prosecution has to be dropped because the accused is very obviously not guilty (such as not even being in the country when they were supposed to have mugged someone) their answer is "Insufficient evidence".

  11. Roj Blake Silver badge


    These are are the people who now have virtually unfettered access to your internet connection records.

    Also: the abuses mentioned in the article are just the ones that they have detected and admitted to.

  12. strum


    Thing is - every fictional private eye in history has had a 'friend' (usually female) with access to police records, who will hunt down a car reg/phone no./address, for the promise of a swanky dinner.

    And we all took that in our stride.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: PE

      Cadfael didn't.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is the ICO doing?

    This is the police reporting their staff caught red-handed with their finger in the cookie-jar..The Information Commissioner's Office should also be investigating because if this is what the police are reporting, I bet there is a lot more going un-reported..

  14. batfink

    The mark of a good police force... to catch more crooks than it employs.

    Not my comment, but from Robert Mark, Met Police Commissioner in the 1970's.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just the tip!

    Honestly if normal folk knew what was going on they would be sick!

    I know of a few crimes that "after a chat with XXX" were "sorted out".

    Been drinking and driving and got cought? No bother, your brother can make that go away!

    I would not beleive it if I didnt see it with my own eyes.

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