FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST
Police Access To School Biometric Databases
In May 2013 every police force in the UK was sent a Freedom of Information request asking if that force had ever accessed a school biometric database.
All 48 UK Polices Forces were sent a Freedom of Information request 'Access to school biometric databases'
4 forces failed to answer the request (8%)
2 forces answered stating they had no information (5%)
4 forces stated no they had not accessed a school biometric database (8%)
38 forces refusing to answer citing cost (79%)
(Full breakdown by Police Force here)
Nearly 80% of forces that replied to the Freedom of Information request stated that answering would would exceed the appropiate cost limit for the force, which is 18 hours of work at £25 an hour or £450, citing Section 12 (1) under the Freedom of Information Act which "does not oblige a public authority to comply with a request for information if the authority estimates that the cost of complying with the reauest would exceed the appropiate limit"
Eight questions were initially asked in the Freedom of Information request. When the request was reduced to one question to try to reduce the costs for the forces and thereby obtain an answer - Q6 Has this police force ever requested or had access to a school biometric database and please advise whether requests were successfully granted or not - police forces stated that replying to this one question would still exceed the cost limits.
Not only will parents and children not know if the police have ever accessed a school biometric database but neither will the general public.
ACCESS TO SCHOOL BIOMETRIC DATABASES
These questions apply from 2001 until present and applies to your/this police force’s jurisdiction. Preferred format would be a breakdown down by school and year if possible.
1) Please advise how many schools had computer hardware and software stolen.
2) Please advise if any of the computer hardware and software stolen had children’s or teacher's biometric data on.
3) In relation to question 2 please could you advise if any of the computer hardware and software that has been stolen has ever been recovered?
4) Apart from theft, is this police force aware of any biometric systems in schools being compromised?
5) Does your force report any biometric data stolen to any government department? If so please advise which one.
6) Has this police force ever requested or had access to a school biometric database and please advise whether requests were successfully granted or not.
7) With regards to question 6, from the school biometric databases accessed please advise if:
i) Any biometric data was added to the police database
ii) Was the schools biometric data system easily inter-operable with the police database?
8) Was any conviction successful as a result of data obtained from a school biometric
Q50 Gwyn Prosser: Those are matters about how long you keep this information stored. In terms of access, let us take a children's library. Some children's libraries use a fingerprint system now. How difficult would it be for the police to have access to that? How serious a crime and what test would they have to pass to be allowed access to that, which could be very sensitive
Mr Smith: At the moment the test is with the school. The police make an access request. The school looks at: "Would we breach the Data Protection Act if we respond to the police?" If they can say that not giving the information would be likely to prejudice prevention or detection of crime and does not say a level of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of an offender, then they can give that information without breaching the Act. A low level of crime would justify that. The information might be of limited use to them because of the way it is stored. Those fingerprint systems in schools would not necessarily be compatible with the way that the police use it. But the test is fairly low.
Q51 Gwyn Prosser: Would the school or library have to inform the youngster or the parent?
Mr Smith: They would not have to, although we would recommend as part of good data protection practice that they do notify people, unless doing so would essentially be a tip-off which would harm the police investigation.
David Smith's answers revealed that police potentially could have access to a school biometric database without the child or parent's knowledge.
And it would seem also without the knowledge of the public.