A report from UK privacy watchdog Big Brother Watch (BBW) reveals that UK police suffered 2,315 data breaches between June 2011 and December 2015 as a result of insiders abusing their access to the data.

BBW says that, in 869 cases, police officers accessed citizens private data without a work-related purpose, and in 877 incidents, police officers shared data with unauthorized third-parties.

Few police officers who caused the breaches were punished

Despite the flagrant abuse, in 1,283 cases, authorities decided to take no disciplinary action against the individual that broke procedures. Only 297 cases resulted in the resignation or dismissal of the guilty employee.

Authorities did decide to press charges, and for 70 cases, the investigation concluded with a criminal conviction or a caution warning. For 258 less flagrant cases, officers received a written or verbal warning.

The largest number of data breaches were recorded at the West Midlands Police force, with 488. The rest of the top five is as follows: Surrey Police (202), Humberside Police (168), Avon and Somerset Police (163), and Greater Manchester Police (100).

Some of the most notable incidents include the case of an officer from the Dyfed Powys Police who passed a USB device to a member of the public. The data stick contained sensitive police information such as intelligence reports, emails, and public information letters relating to crime.

In another incident, a police officer from Essex used his access to the national database to conduct background checks on female dates.

Report warns against the adoption of the Snoopers’ Charter

The report comes as the vote on the Snoopers’ Charter (nickname for Draft Communications Data Bill) is getting nearer. The upcoming bill is to place even more data in the police’s lap, such as information relating to a UK citizen’s Web traffic logs. BBW argues that:

  Currently no other European or Commonwealth country requires the storage of web data in this form. No evidence has been presented to show why the UK is a special case or needs these powers more than any other country; the Government have expressed enthusiasm at leading the way with a new system. However they won’t be the very first, a similar system was built and used in Denmark in 2007; it was abandoned after 7 years when it failed to provide any useful results. Plans to reintroduce it were scrapped because of spiralling costs.  

The Big Brother Watch organization claims that UK police is currently unable to stop current protocol breaches, and it is not yet ready for having their investigatory powers expanded with even more sensitive material.

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