Share Comments (13)11:54am UK, Sunday January 02, 2011
Ruth Barnett, Sky News Online
Millions of people have had their details stored on police databases after reporting a crime, it has emerged.
Many people dialling 999 or non emergency numbers had their details logged
Several forces in England and Wales confirmed they have logged information about hundreds of thousands of people even though they are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
More than a million names are on a database belonging to West Midlands Police, the second largest force. This is comprised of people who have reported crimes over the last 12 years, not suspects or convicts.
Forces in Lancashire, Cleveland, Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, West Mercia and North Wales each hold details on more than 150,000 innocent people.
Callers who dial 999 or local police force numbers are routinely having their personal information stored and it may be used in future criminal investigations, officers said.
We must be transparent and reassure the public that the information is not being misused.
Ian Readhead, Association of Chief Police Officers
The details can include birth dates and ethnicity as well as names and addresses.
Ian Readhead, who is director of information at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and a retired deputy chief constable, said forces should be open about the information they hold.
"What is important is that data is retained in applications that are clearly transparent and subject to audit and that the Information Commissioner is content with the business processes," he said.
"We must be transparent and reassure the public that the information is not being misused. The volume of information held by the police service can be vast and one of the things we must do is ensure compliance."
Daniel Hamilton, of Big Brother Watch, said the information should be deleted to restore public confidence.
Reporting a crime can lead tonames and addresses being stored
"For the Police to log this kind of information isn't just wrong - it's dangerous," he said.
"The public must be confident that, when they report a crime, they do so in the comfort of anonymity and without risk of their details being stored on a central police database which can be accessed by thousands of people," he added.
Gus Hosein, from Privacy International, suggested the databases could be seen as undemocratic.
"There's a point where the police stop seeing members of the public as the people to be protected and rather see them all as potential criminals," he said.
"Until now, this only happened in non-democratic states, but I fear that this line has been crossed in ours."
The figures emerged from Freedom of Information requests logged by the Press Association news agency.