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Data Protection Day – Why it matters

ACC Nick Bailey Tunic.jpgWe cannot police without information. It helps us to keep people safe, prevent and detect crime and bring offenders to justice. It is indisputable.

Most information comes directly from the public, from communities, from businesses, from witnesses and from victims of crime. This information isn’t just general conversation, or words on a page. It is personal, and often highly sensitive. People share information with us about their most traumatic experiences, about their most privately held thoughts, feelings and fears. This can be understandably difficult and distressing, put people in difficult situations or, worse, at risk of harm.

Personal and sensitive information is ‘entrusted’ to us to allow us to do our duty. Data protection is our responsibility, and it is our duty to treat this information sensitively, securely, lawfully, and effectively for the purpose it is provided to us for – policing. If we don’t, we will lose the trust of the people we serve. If we lose their trust, we lose their cooperation, and with that, the vital information we need. That is why it matters, and why it is important that we demonstrate this.

People trust us with their information, and we have not just a legal, but a moral obligation to ensure that data is managed appropriately and sensitively.

So, on Data Protection Day, I’d like to take the opportunity as NPCC lead for Data Protection to demonstrate our commitment. Data Protection Day was launched in 2006 and it is now recognised as an international day, which seeks to create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust.

We are working hard to tackle misconceptions and de-mystify data protection officers and staff. Key messages to understand are:

  • Information sharing saves lives. Data protection enables this. Forces share massive volumes of information daily for all manner of reasons, including safeguarding, law enforcement, employment checks, and through schemes such as Claire’s Law and Sarah’s Law. We simply need to make sure we are sharing the right information, with the right person, at the right time with necessary safeguards in place.
  • The use of new techniques and technologies such as body worn video, facial recognition or artificial intelligence for public good is essential for the future of policing in the modern world. For it to be effective and maintain the confidence of the public, it must be responsible, transparent, consultative, and be based on good quality, accurate data.
  • Cyber-attacks, security incidents and data breaches can have devastating consequences for the public, officers and staff, and policing operations and investigations. We need to be vigilant, aware and informed, ensuring we embed appropriate protective measures to our technologies and activities.

The work of my portfolio supports the service through its specialists working in the areas of data subject rights, authorised professional practice and guidance, learning and development, data protection reform, and environmental scanning amongst other things. It includes key representatives from all force areas, and important stakeholders such as ACPO Criminal Records Office, NPCC National Disclosure Unit and the College of Policing. We also work closely with the Information Commissioner’s Offices as representatives of the public, and other linked NPCC portfolios.

On Data Protection Day, I have urged Chief Constables to take the opportunity to reinforce their commitment to the safe and lawful handling of personal data. Many officers and staff throughout the country will be undertaking learning and development activities. Tools are available for police forces to help them with this including e-learning, training videos, guidance and Authorised Professional Practise. Local force Twitter feeds may include information on any other local initiatives they have in place.

It matters to you; it matters to us.

Happy Data Protection Day!

NPCC Data Protection Lead ACC Nick Bailey