Names Today, Faces Tomorrow? UK Police Fail On Privacy

Manasa Narayanan is a London-based freelance journalist reporting on politics and technology. Police LFR watch tower in London’s Trafalgar square during the King’s coronation, May 2023. Photo by Manasa Narayanan. Recent events raise substantial concerns about whether UK police departments can be trusted to utilize advanced surveillance technologies. In the last two months, multiple data breaches implicating UK police have come to light:  On 15th August, Norfolk and Suffolk police rather casually put out a statement announcing that the personal details of 1,230 people from their crime database had been mistakenly released as part of Freedom of Information (FOI) responses. This included identities of victims, witnesses and suspects linked to serious crimes including sexual offenses. Victims of sexual violence are usually protected by the right to anonymity given the gravity of their cases. But careless leaks like this put vulnerable individuals in an even precarious situation. A week before, names, ranks and unit information of 10,000 police officers with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) were also mistakenly uploaded in response to a FOI request. This list remained online for several hours, and was accessed by Republican dissidents in Northern Ireland who have since issued threats to the police. This has happened in a region where hostility towards the police is high, and against the backdrop of a police officer being shot multiple times by dissidents in February.  A month earlier, there was another breach with the PSNI in which a police laptop and documents were stolen from a…Names Today, Faces Tomorrow? UK Police Fail On Privacy