As a relatively prolific user of social networks and social media I generate a fair amount of data. Whilst I’m wary of what the social networks do with the data I generate, I appreciate that there’s no such thing as a free lunch and the data I generate contributes towards the revenue that keeps these services alive. There’s an uneasy tension that exists between big data and my data. I applaud services which allow me to retain or get back the data I put into them; Facebook, I’m looking at you here. I frown in a disapproving manner at services that make it challenging to get my data back without recourse to some coding; Foursquare and Flickr, I’m looking at you here. I’m quietly furious, yet continue to use services which are valuable to me but make it downright impossible to get my data back; Twitter, I’m fixing you with my steely gaze here.
This is all data that I willingly generate and contribute. But I’m increasingly wary about data which is not willingly generated or contributed. The data that private corporations hold on me, such as credit ratings agencies and more and more, the data that my government and their agencies hold on me, that I either haven’t willingly consented to or that is generated or aggregated without my knowledge.
It now seems that I need to add the police force of the city in which I live to the growing list of government agencies I’m wary of. As the BBC reports …
The Metropolitan Police has implemented a system to extract mobile phone data from suspects held in custody.
The data includes call history, texts and contacts, and the BBC has learned that it will be retained regardless of whether any charges are brought.
What? Seriously? Really?
I can accept that if a crime has been committed, there’s a strong argument for getting access to data on a mobile phone, if it’s done with the correct authorisation and if it’s needed in order to achieve a conviction. But keeping the data, regardless of whether charges are brought or not has to be a breach of privacy. That breach isn’t just of the individual concerned, but of all the contact information for individuals that are on a phone and for the company who employs the suspect, who now has their privacy breached. Whilst history of calls, texts and contacts are mentioned, I fully expect the information obtained to cover email, work and personal email, as well, which would be even more cause for concern for companies in this country.
I’m sure the standard nothing to hide, nothing to fear adage will be rolled out to mollify concerns over this and we’ll be told that we can trust our police force with this information that they hold. After all, our police officers would never illegally access information that they hold, just like our civil servants would never snoop on the private health and financial information that the government holds … would they?
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