Wed, 07 Mar 2007

The Met is still registered with the Information Commissioner, and the entry is public... again

Sometime last year when updating the Innocent in London page I realised the link to the registration entry of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) in the register of data controllers maintained by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) was not working anymore. I looked for an updated entry and none were to be found. I simply updated the page with the annotation: ‘[update: the link to the entry – – is now dead and I cannot find the new DPR entry for the Met]’.

In January, SpyBlog also looked for the MPS entry in the register and couldn't find it either. SpyBlog called the staff at the Information Commissioner's Office but they ‘could not seem to find any current or pending Data Protection Register entries on their internal systems either’. (I commented on this in an earlier entry: Where is the Metropolitan Police entry in the data protection public register?)

Early February, as I had to contact the Public Access Office of the MPS, I took this opportunity to ask ‘for the registration number(s) or name(s) under which the MPS data controller(s) is registered under the Data Protection Act as I can't find any entry for it any more in the ICO's register of data controllers’. First time I asked, this query was ignored. Second time I asked, it was ignored again.

Later that month the Mayor of London (MOL) blog raised this issue as well.

Last week, I emailed the Metropolitan Police Authority asking whether they could find out whether the MPS is registered under the Data Protection Act or whether I should ask a question to the Clerk to the Authority (I had used this procedure last year). They ‘asked the MPS to provide [them] with the information that [I] have requested’ and today I got the following reply:
The MPS is registered under the Data Protection Act with the Information Commissioner. The Data Protection Registration No. is Z4888193, the entry expires on 8/9/07.
You can verify this for yourself by searching for the registration number at the ICO's register of data controllers search page. (Permalinks to the register don't tend to be permanent, but here's one to the entry itself). I can't reproduce the full entry here for copyright reasons (the copyright is listed at the bottom of the entry).

This is a positive development as if the MPS had not been registered it would have meant that all the police databases such as the Police National Computer, the National DNA Database, IDENT1, the National Automatic Number Plate Recognition Database, etc. would have been unlawful. That being the case, it would have been likely for some trials to be dismissed on pure technicality. We are all safer with police databases being operated lawfully.

What is curious is that this entry, originally registered on 09 September 2000, suddenly reappears today after multiple enquiries by SpyBlog and myself to the ICO, the Public Access Office of the MPS and to the Metropolitan Police Authority. The data controller is listed as COMMISSIONER FOR THE METROPOLIS. The searches done by SpyBlog, MOL and myself would have found this entry if it had been present.

Through the independent efforts of SpyBlog and myself, both the MPS and the ICO have been aware that the MPS entry in the data controler register could not be found. (Visitors from the MPS are regulars to the Innocent in London page and they are also likely to have noticed the update note there.) Only a nudge from the MPA, it seems, made it reappear as if by magic. Why it disappeared from the public register for several months, in the first place, remains a mystery.

2007-03-07 EDITED TO ADD: SpyBlog posted this news on its sister FOIA blog. An earlier post is about SpyBlog's FOIA request to the ICO.

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