Who Can Peek into the Police’s Database? The Unexpected Non-Govt Agencies with PNC Access

An FOI request uncovers the wide net of private and semi-private entities with direct access to the Police National Computer - What does this mean for your privacy?

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Key Takeaways:

  • An FOI request revealed a list of non-government bodies with access to the UK’s Police National Computer (PNC).
  • Private entities including “My Local Bobby (MLB)” and “TM-Eye” have documented agreements for PNC access.
  • The implications for privacy and data protection are significant, sparking debate on the oversight of such access.

In a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the Coronation Square Civil Rights Association to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), a startling breadth of access to the Police National Computer (PNC) by non-governmental bodies has been brought to light. The PNC, a system that holds extensive data on citizens, including criminal records and vehicle registration, is traditionally thought to be the purview of police and select government agencies. However, the reality appears to be much broader.

Access Granted: More than Just the Usual Suspects

The FOI response lists a variety of entities that one might not expect to have direct access to police databases. Among these are the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Charities Commission for England & Wales, and even seemingly unrelated bodies like the Marine Management Organisation.

Here’s a distilled version of the list in tabular form for easier analysis:

Access NIBackground Checks
ACPO Criminal Records OfficePolicing Support
Disclosure and Barring ServiceEmployment Screening
Competition and Markets AuthorityRegulatory
Criminal Cases Review CommissionJustice
Health & Safety ExecutiveWork Safety
HM Revenue & CustomsTaxation
Independent Office for Police ConductPolicing Oversight
Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory AuthorityHealthcare Regulation

The Privacy Puzzle: Data Access vs. Data Protection

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The revelation that a range of non-governmental bodies have access to such sensitive information raises immediate privacy concerns. The overarching question is: What checks and balances are in place to ensure this access is justified and protected against misuse?

Opinion: A Call for Transparency and Oversight

While cooperation between policing and external bodies can be crucial for the efficient functioning of services, the breadth of access highlighted by the FOI request necessitates a public discussion on privacy safeguards. The agreements mentioned for “My Local Bobby” and “TM-Eye” suggest a trend of outsourcing certain police functions to private entities. This could be seen as a beneficial move towards specialization and efficiency or as a worrying dilution of accountability in the handling of sensitive data.

Conclusion: Ensuring Public Trust in Data Sharing Practices

The NPCC’s response is a reminder that, in the digital age, data sharing is a complex issue that intersects with the rights to privacy and the need for security. As citizens, staying informed and engaged in how our data is accessed and used by non-governmental entities is not just a matter of privacy but a cornerstone of our civil liberties.

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