Beyond Counter-Terrorism Units – Your Front Page For Information Governance News

By neub9
5 Min Read

The UK government’s anti-radicalisation program, Prevent, is reportedly sharing the personal details of thousands of individuals more extensively than previously known. This sharing includes not just counter-terrorism units, but also airports, ports, immigration services, and officials at the Home Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO). Critics argue that such widespread data sharing could be illegal, as it involves moving sensitive personal data between databases without the consent of the individuals.

A Metropolitan police document titled “Prevent case management guidance” indicates that Prevent details are also shared with the ports authority watchlist. This raises concerns that individuals may face increased scrutiny at airports or be subjected to counter-terrorism powers without reasonable suspicion. The document also mentions that foreign nationals may have their backgrounds checked by the FCDO and immigration services for any overseas convictions or intelligence.

Furthermore, the Acro Criminal Records Office, which manages UK criminal records, is notified about individuals referred to Prevent, despite the program dealing with individuals who haven’t necessarily engaged in criminal behavior. Counter-terror police emphasize their careful approach to data sharing, which aims to protect vulnerable individuals.

Prevent’s goal is to divert people from terrorism before they offend, and most people are unaware of their referral to the program. 95% of referrals result in no further action. A secret database, the National Police Prevent Case Management database, was previously disclosed in 2019, revealing the storage of details of those referred to Prevent.

Newly disclosed information, obtained through a freedom of information request by the Open Rights Group (ORG), reveals that Prevent data is shared across various police databases, including the Police National Computer, specialized counter-terrorism and local intelligence systems, and the National Crime Agency.

The sharing of this data was accidentally revealed due to a redaction error in a heavily edited Met document. Despite its sensitive nature, the ORG decided to make the document public. Sophia Akram of the ORG expressed concerns over the extent of the data sharing and potential harms, suggesting that it could be unfair and possibly unlawful.

The guidance also indicates that data is retained and used even in cases where no further action is taken. There are concerns about the impact on young people’s educational opportunities, as Prevent requires public bodies like schools and the police to identify individuals at risk of extremism.

Recent figures show thousands of referrals to Prevent, predominantly from educational institutions. From April 2022 to March 2023, a total of 6,817 individuals were directed to the Prevent program. Within this group, educational institutions were responsible for 2,684 referrals. Breaking down the referrals by age, there were 2,203 adolescents between the ages of 15 and 20, and 2,119 referrals involved children aged 14 or younger.

There are worries about the long-term consequences for children and young people referred to the program. Several cases have highlighted the intrusive nature of this data sharing and its potential impact on individuals’ lives. Cases in which students have missed gaining a place at a sixth form college and other cases involving children as young as four years old.

Prevent Watch, an organization monitoring the program, has raised alarms about the data sharing, particularly its effect on young children. The FoI disclosures challenge the notion that Prevent is non-criminalizing, as data on individuals, even those marked as ‘no further action’, can be stored on criminal databases and flagged on watchlists.

Counter-terrorism policing spokespeople defend the program, emphasizing its multi-agency nature and focus on protecting people from harm. They assert that data sharing is carefully managed and legally compliant, aiming to safeguard vulnerable individuals from joining terror groups or entering conflict zones.

Learn more about data sharing with our UK GDPR Practitioner Certificate. Dive into the issues discussed in this blog and secure your spot now.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *