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Technology / Data

Police Database Plans Prompt Civil Liberties Walk Out

Civil liberties group Liberty has walked out on Home Office consultations into a new cloud-based police database, saying it does not want to provide “unwarranted legitimisation” to the programme amid both security and privacy concerns.

Consultations into the Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS) cloud, which it claimed poses serious risks to the civil liberties of UK citizens, are too narrow and not addressing issues including real time biometric data sharing, Liberty added.

police databaseWhat is the LEDs Police Database?

LEDS will see the merging of two currently siloed databases: the police national database, which holds sensitive intelligence information, and the police national computer, which contains the records of past convictions in Britain.

In a letter sent on Friday September 28 to Andrew Knight, the compliance relationship manager of the LEDS programme, Liberty said: “The Privacy Impact Assessment drafted in relation to LEDS lacks detailed examination of the potential impact on privacy which is inherent in its development.”

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A key factor for Liberty in the merging of the two databases is that in doing so information that the police force no longer has any legal ground to access will be transferred into the LEDS.

With regards to sharing and access the letter comments that: “Arrangements for sharing and access are not sufficiently robust and allow for wider sharing with non-policing organisations where a “business case” can be made.”

The policing databases will be stored in a commercially available cloud, a development Liberty believes poses a security risk as non-policing analysts will be able to access the data, especially during the switch-over phase.

Open Space Consultation

Writing in a blog post for Liberty, advocacy and policy officer Hannah Couchman commented: “The Home Office has made clear to us that the Open Space consultation will exclude discussion of our key concerns with the plan.”

“The information on the database will be vulnerable in many ways – and the Home Office’s plans fail to explain how police will use the system in conjunction with the creeping progression of surveillance and algorithmic policing.”

Liberty Group

In Liberty’s letter to the Home Office they stress that LEDS should not be ‘considered in a vacuum’ and that discussions need to take place around concerns about how live facial recognition technology could potentially be used in conjunction with the new database.

Liberty believe that if left unaddressed LEDS could see a form of ‘mission creep’ take place, where the original function of the technology is slowly incorporated into areas not approved or legislated for.

The advocacy groups concerns are that it will be linked into other databases such as immigration and that it will also be used in conjunction with artificial intelligence and sophisticated algorithms which will aid police in predictions, profiling and future decision-making.

“Liberty remains concerned that its participation in the Civil Society Open Space will lead to an unwarranted legitimisation of the LEDS programme, with its myriad significant human rights concerns. The process so far does very little to reassure us that these issues will be taken seriously and addressed,” letter to the Home Office states.

Hannah Couchman concluded in her blog post that: “We must question how super-databases like this will be linked with lawless surveillance technologies or biased algorithmic programs that make predictions about who is likely to commit crime.”

“We will continue to support other civil society organisations participating in the consultation process – and call on the Home Office to take seriously the serious privacy concerns we have highlighted.”
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CBR Staff Writer

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