Out-Law News 1 min. read

ICO approves crime maps but warns of possible privacy dangers

Privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has said that police must take care to ensure that the localised crime maps launched today in England and Wales do not breach privacy laws.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham was consulted over the new maps and said that in their current state they do not breach the privacy of individuals involved in or affected by crime. He said, though, that there is a danger of that happening and that reviews will be necessary to check that current protections are adequate.

"Crime mapping can be an effective means of letting people know what crimes are taking place in their local area although care needs to be taken as this can potentially have an impact on the privacy of individuals such as victims or witnesses," said Graham.

The ICO helped police and the Government to put in place measures to ensure the privacy of individuals, he said.

"We are pleased to have had the opportunity to provide advice about the privacy implications and that our advice has been incorporated into many of the safeguards that have been put in place," said Graham. "It will be important that this initiative is reviewed to ensure that the privacy safeguards are effective in practice."

The maps allow users of the police website to see the details of what crimes and incidences of antisocial behaviour have happened on their, or any other, streets.

Police policy co-ordination group the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that it had considered the privacy implications of the publication of the information.

"The interest of victims are at the heart of this new approach and the Government is also working with the Information Commissioner to ensure that the identities of individuals are protected whilst giving people the information they need to challenge their police force and change their communities," said ACPO's lead on crime information Deputy Chief Constable Neil Rhodes.

"Making information available to the public will ... help reduce the fear of crime and in areas where crime is occurring, provide encouragement to the public to support the police with information and remain watchful when appropriate," he said.

Home Secretary Theresa May said that the Government wanted to introduce further plans to help the public understanding policing policy and actions.

"This is a major achievement, reconnecting the police and communities through the power of information," she said. "But this is just the start. We want to build on this by working with the police and communities to explore how we can go further and faster and drive forward even greater transparency across crime, policing and justice."

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