Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hunting for my police file

OK, surfing the wave of the Guradian's front page story on police records of non-criminal protesters, I set off to find what data they hold on moi.

0900h begin nosing around on Guardian website, via Mark Thomas, via Fitwatch, via Information Commissioners Office, picking up a letter template on the way (pasted below) until
1100h realise I have to write a snail letter, keeping a copy in case the original goes "missing", to local police - in my case, Avon and Somerset. Go to their website

Navigation: Home page > Documents and information > Freedom of Information > How to obtain information

This is good. I can make a request online. Press link.
Pop up box says
"PLEASE NOTE: This form is not to be used for requesting personal information.
"If you wish to request any information held about you please click Cancel.
If you want to make a Freedom of Information Request then click OK."

So I click Cancel. Whereupon I go to Subject access (criminal convictions record).

I do not have a criminal conviction, so forget it. No short cuts, it's going to have to be a letter. Here is the template :


Dear [Enter name],

I am writing to request all the information to which I am entitled to under section 7(1) of the Data Protection Act 1998. In order to assist you with this request, I am outlining some of the areas and occasions on which your organisation may have compiled information on me. As you will understand, this may not be a definitive list of such occasions.

[Give a description of how you have come into contact with the organisation - the more specific, the better]

I would be interested in any discussion or opinions expressed within your organisation of my person, reputation, character, history or behaviour, actual or perceived.

I should make it clear that this request should also cover all or any other information you may hold. I hope that you will be able to comprehensively search all your records. The definition of "personal data" under the Act covers both facts and opinions about myself as an individual, as well as information regarding the intentions of your organisation towards myself as an individual.

This request should therefore cover any internal external memos, emails, faxes and any other correspondence or readily accessible data held on computer by your organisation, which could be classified as 'personal data' under the 1998 Data Protection Act. This covers both manual and electronic data.

I enclose a photocopy of [proof of your address, such as gas/electricity/telephone bill] as confirmation of the above being my home address. I have also enclosed a photocopy of my passport [or similar, such as driving licence] and a recent photograph of myself to aid your identification.

I understand that under the act, I should be entitled to a response within 40 days. I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.



Now, before the Eeyore Tendency comes in with things like "You're wasting your time, its no good they won't give you their full record, we can never win against Europe,/Them/Vested Interests, let me say this :

I am not naive, nor am I stupid. I know they will not give me all the information, but I will get a bit. It is my innate curiosity, as a scientist, a campaigner, and an inventor. Anyway, if it's all so hopeless, why are you wasting time criticising peeps who are doing stuff?


Watching Them, Watching Us said...

Good luck with your Data Protection Act 1998 Subject Data Access request.

When you repeat this exercise, bearing in mind, that if you have ever been to another Police Force area, say London, then you you will have write to that Police Force's Data Controller (the Chief Constable or Commissioner), there is an extra bit of the Act which you may wish to use.

The Data Protection Act 1998 section 12 Rights in relation to automated decision-taking:

1) An individual is entitled at any time, by notice in writing to any data controller, to require the data controller to ensure that no decision taken by or on behalf of the data controller which significantly affects that individual is based solely on the processing by automatic means of personal data in respect of which that individual is the data subject for the purpose of evaluating matters relating to him such as, for example, his performance at work, his creditworthiness, his reliability or his conduct.


This was originally intended for automated "post code lottery" financial credit rating scoring, but it is equally applicable to Police data trawling for "domestic extremists".

You need to specifically mention that to mention that you are serving, in writing, a "Data Notice" on them, under section 12, and they then have, not 40 days, but only 21 days to reply.

If, as is likley, they do not give you any satisfaction, then you have to complain to the information Commissioner's Office (expect this to take a year or two).

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

oops! - too many mentions of "mention".

Also, the section 12 Data Notice does not attract a fee of up to £10 (nobody ever charges less than this statutory maximum), as the the Data Subject Access request does.

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

Data Protection Act 1998 7 Right of access to personal data

(d) where the processing by automatic means of personal data of which that individual is the data subject for the purpose of evaluating matters relating to him such as, for example, his performance at work, his creditworthiness, his reliability or his conduct, has constituted or is likely to constitute the sole basis for any decision significantly affecting him, to be informed by the data controller of the logic involved in that decision-taking.

This looks to be applicable to Automatic Number Plate Recognition of protestors vehicle, but you have to specifically ask for the "logic involved in the automated decision taking" to be explained to you, in your written Data Subject Access request.

This explanation has to be done in plain English, according to the Information Commissioner's Office.