Privacy actions up 22% as public fights storage of personal information on ‘big brother’ databases

 

A sharp rise in the number of privacy hearings in British courts has been fuelled by requests for “irrelevant” personal information to be removed from police and other state databases, figures show.

Public concerns over the retention of personal data by police, hospitals and the security services are thought to have led to an upsurge of privacy actions – which have increased by 22 per cent in the last year.

Lawyers believe that because these figures are based only on published cases, the true number could be even higher. The findings from legal publisher Sweet and Maxwell, are thought to have marked a distinct shift in the way privacy laws are used in Britain.

Three years ago, the bulk of cases comprised celebrities eager to stop the media publishing details of their private lives. The latest figures show a fall in such cases to just 11 per cent of those brought to court in the last 12 months, down from 47 per cent the previous year.

Jonathan Cooper, a leading barrister on privacy matters, said: “There has been a sudden shift from privacy law being the preserve of wealthy, high-profile celebrities to privacy law being used by a much broader cross-section of society.

“Criminal record checks are being used much more frequently by employers, so people are going to greater lengths than ever before to make sure irrelevant information is being removed from their records. In some cases, people have to bring an action through the courts to force the body to delete the information.”

Examples of data retention where no criminal charge has been made include retaining an individual’s fingerprints, DNA, and custody photographs.

About four million criminal records checks are made in Britain every year, and privacy campaigners say that many of these personal details remain on databases and resurface when checks are made – even if no charges have been made.

The issue was exemplified earlier this year when John Catt, an 83-year-old campaigner with no criminal record, won a landmark cases to have his records deleted from a database of suspected extremists. Police kept a covert record of his presence at more than 55 protests over a four-year period.

Other examples cited included a nurse who alleged police had acted unlawfully by disclosing allegations against her of neglect and ill-treatment of care-home residents in an enhanced criminal records certificate.

The concern over personal data has been compounded in recent months by the revelations of US surveillance. One of the documents leaked by Edward Snowden alleged the British listening post GCHQ was scooping vast amounts of online and telephone traffic.

Privacy International recently submitted a legal challenge calling on the suspension of Britain’s use of information from the National Security’s Agency Prism programme, and from the Tempora programme of surveillance of emails, phone calls and Skype conversations.

Rachel Robinson, of Liberty said: “As scandals around the use and abuse of our personal data reach new heights, people are taking action. These figures show we care deeply about our privacy and will use the law to fight the ever-expanding database state.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific