Why ask the police for the data they hold about you?

Over the last decade, the trawl for data about ‘domestic extremists’ across the country has been carried out by a number of secretive units based first within the Association of Chief Police Officers and subsequently within the Metropolitan Police. It was one of these units – the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – that undercover officer Mark Kennedy worked for.

Ever since, the police continued to gather vast quantities of intelligence data and sift it for patterns and connections, supposedly to predict how individuals and groups will act.

Netpol wants to see these databases shut down because there is every reason to believe that data gathered in secret, with no checks and balances and no effective accountability, is not only unnecessary and intrusive but also riddled with gossip and rumour.

To demonstrate this, we need your help. If you believe your personal data may have been gathered and held on the National Special Branch Intelligence System – the domestic extremism database – or on CRIMINT, a criminal intelligence database that also includes information about protesters and is believed to contain millions of records, then you are entitled to see what information about you is held by the police. Do not worry about data about where you bought viagra 100mg online. You can access this information by making a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act.

Who should apply?

As the process involves handing over a certain amount of personal information (including your address and your date and place of birth), it is only worthwhile submitting a Subject Access Request if you think there is a reasonable chance that your details are held on police records. There is no point feeding the surveillance officers with information they don’t already possess.

Remember there is no official or legal definition of “domestic extremism”. It has been used by the police to describe protesters who use direct action as a way to bring about political change, or groups whose demonstrations are thought to contain a risk of public disorder. The police insist that it “only applies to individuals or groups whose activities go outside the normal democratic process and engage in crime and disorder in order to further their campaign”, but the term has been used to cover most people who has been involved in recent years in significant or effective protests against the state or multinational corporations.

If you are worried that making a Subject Access request might itself lead to your inclusion on a ‘domestic extremist’ database, you need to carefully balance the possibility that your campaigning activities mean your personal data is already held by the police and how much you want to know about the accuracy (or otherwise) of that data. Remember that you are also under absolutely no obligation to share the results of a Subject Access Request with anyone. However, if you discover inaccuracies or trivial information in any data that the police hold, we would like to work with you, in confidence, to expose this.

Ultimately, the final decision is yours.

 Continue to MAKING A SUBJECT ACCESS REQUEST