back to article Brit cops can keep millions of mugshots of innocent folks on file

After unlawfully hoarding millions of mugshots of one-time suspects, police chiefs in England and Wales were this week told to delete the snaps – but only if people in the photos complain. And even then, requests can be easily waved away. This is all set out in the UK Home Office's "Review of the Use and Retention of Custody …

Anonymous Coward

Orwell

Nuff said.

Wonder if this is just the tip of the iceberg or are there other things we aren't being told, say a certain agency hacking people's routers and "accidentally" dumping the entire contents of their HDD for later analysis? The problem is that in combination with lots of borderline techniques like passive phone tracking via SSID and setting up devices via a custom firmware hack to broadcast their location by turning the FM radio chip on and off at regular intervals, its hard *NOT* to be on some database or other.

Contrary to popular belief it is quite feasible to override the lockout that stops the FM working if the antenna is not connected, the range is about 50 feet and I did my own tests that proves even a lowly Nokia el cheapo "burner" can be thusly traced with a flawed SMS disguised as an advertising message. Hint: if the phone battery runs down faster than usual, suspect mischief.

Also having an RF sniffer is very useful if you want to see if your phone is playing shadow games and turning its camera /NFC/etc on at stupid times etc. 13.22 MHz

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Trollface

The giggle you hear in the Red Square is coming from the wall

If you are wondering why there is a manic giggle audible across the Red Square, it is coming from the cemetery next to the wall. Brezhnev, Suslov and Chernenko are laughing their asses off so loud that you can hear them on the other side of the (rather large) pavement.

I am not going to quote what Suslov said about the Helsinki declaration of human rights. It is on file - look it up (it is proving to be 100% true).

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Anonymous Coward

What a spectacularly questionable argument..

Astonishingly, the Home Office stopped short of demanding the deletion of all images of innocent people no longer under investigation because, apparently, there are so many photos on file, it would be impractical to ask officers to go through all their databases and remove photographs of individuals who have never been convicted of an offence.

Excuse me, but even for politics this is a load of BS. That's like citizens stating that they have so many speeding tickets and parking fines that it would simply be impractical to pay them all, they will still get done for them and hounded for the extra income, thank you very much. The law applies to EVERYONE. If you deem something too much like hard work you should have thought of that when you started breaking the law in the first place.

Even without SPECIFIC advice it was well known that there was a problem - they could have stopped there and then, and in my opinion data gathered and held in conflict of the first review after that was published should become flat out illegal and should make victims eligible for compensation. To explain the latter: I don't believe in handouts per sé, but in my experience it is unlikely that anyone gets off their fat behind unless it's likely to cost them money.

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Holmes

Re: What a spectacularly questionable argument..

Simple - its acceptable for the "Establishment" to feign misinterpretation.. Yet joe-public is tarred as a public enemy/rebel/etc if they do the same!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a spectacularly questionable argument..

Ha, yeah I had to read that bit more than once.

It's like when criminals are told they must pay back stolen money, what would happen if they said "well I so would normally, but this time there's just too much of it, stored in too many places I can't keep track."

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Re: What a spectacularly questionable argument..

>It's like when criminals are told they must pay back stolen money, what would happen if they said "well I so would normally, but this time there's just too much of it, stored in too many places I can't keep track."<

Happens all the time, they're called CEO's. Your point being?

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Re: What a spectacularly questionable argument..

Where have you been? The police do whatever it is that's unacceptable, The Home Office sits on it for years, then either the Home Office argues it's accepted practice or the government retroactively changes the law.

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FAIL

LEO Logic:

Here in America, cops who want you to consent to a search will argue that refusal to consent to a search is suspicious enough to be grounds for a forcible search. So obviously, asking to get your picture removed should be a clear sign to law enforcement that you're going to be committing crimes in the near future, and thus they need to keep your pictures on file.

Remember, you wouldn't have had a mug shot taken if you weren't guilty of something, and the innocent have nothing to hide.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: LEO Logic:

Remember, you wouldn't have had a mug shot taken if you weren't guilty of something

Ah, that explains why cops get photographed and fingerprinted when they join. Thanks for clearing that up :).

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FAIL

Re: LEO Logic:

"Ah, that explains why cops get photographed and fingerprinted when they join. Thanks for clearing that up :)."

And I had to get my photo taken for my driver's license, my passport, my work ID too.

None of those things required me to be placed under arrest in order to be processed.

So you point is what exactly? A person having his photo taken voluntarily as part of starting a job isn't the same thing as being arrested and photographed, is it?

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Re: LEO Logic:

Police routinely photograph people at rallies, festivals, protests or even voluntary lineups (cheap 15 at uni, great when you are a nondescript half cast)

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@Alexander J Martin

"Police forces hoarding archives of photos is even more troubling when you consider the plod's dalliances with automated facial recognition (AFR) technology. Of those 19 million custody images held in the UK, 16.6 million are held within the Police National Database’s facial recognition gallery. "

Are these images shared with any other government bodies, such as the DHSS, DWP or whatever it's called these days?

I ask as authorities in Ireland are calling their AFR implementation a success, having caught 'dozens' of welfare fraudsters (who between them had swindled a total of €1.6m) since 2015.

The cost of the AFR scheme? €60m

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Why not store the photos on Instagram and let the public 'like' suspected criminals. The police can then follow that up. Simples :-)

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Anonymous Coward

"The police can then follow that up."

It works! A technique used by totalitarian regimes. That the people are never seen again is proof to the public that their suspicions were correct - even if their real intent in making the report was malicious.

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Big Brother

Alternatively, the police could mine the data to build a 'Snitches and Narks' DB. Always useful in setting up a police state.

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Famous last words: I have 50 likes on Instagram.

Giving the coppers the maximum leeway, and basing whatever I know on television, how about this compromise:

1. Delete all (criminal records) database photos of innocents. This is, or should be, trivial to program(me). For example: loop databases, if convictions% = 0 then loop delete photos-in-this-record >> dev null, next record, next database.

2. Allow them to keep hard copy photos in folders;

3. Establish new procedures with sunset rules for digital photos not held in databases.

What they proposed looks to anybody like they're 100% intent on maintaining / creating the Surveillance State, 0% on Magna Carta and its afterthoughts.

A lot of innocents will have had their photo taken, surreptitiously, by police and not know to request that it be deleted. Five years and this is the best they could do? No wonder "laughingstock" is a word. But after you've laughed for a while, "cryingstock" should become available.

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Your code don't take into account that the person who may have been found "innocent" could still be part of a criminal or the criminal underworld.

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So without charge or, perhaps, conviction, we should hold onto the photos of "wrong 'uns"? Maybe let the ones who are innocent get thrown out. But how to tell the difference?

I suppose you trust Constable Savage enough to be able to spot said wrong 'uns, but I am not that pronoid.

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Coat

@Grapebunch.

Laughing stock is two words.

Sorry.

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Anonymous Coward

How long before the pictures are automatically accessed by border controls outward bound to the USA? They would argue that names are too easy to change.

IIRC even an arrest of an innocent person makes them ineligible in the future for a fast track visa to the USA.

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and what about the other agencies who they shared images & data with?

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Bada bing! Ten points. The focus here being on the Police Force misses the scope of the problem. Once that image has been captured, many and various govt agencies will have access. Remember that long list of agencies that can access citizens' data under RIPA? Those are the agencies they admit to.

And then there are backups,.... how long do we think data in backups is retained? Are those backups offline tapes still? Or are we talking backups on SAN, that could be mounted and used as live data? 'Deletion' means little these days.

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See ya

in the Gulag. I have dibs on the corner room, my fellow comrade.

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Re: See ya

Not me. Im a snitch, nothing bad ever happens to snitches right?

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Re: See ya

Only when some snitches on the snitch. But I'll still have the corner room.

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No smoke without fire.

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

Think of the children.

Terrorists!

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the filth are above the law.

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Sovereignty feels good, doesn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

Yeah, just another power grab

By BRITISH authorities in the war on civil liberties.

Tell us something we don't know.

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@ twilkins

Isnt this where your supposed to say we are still in the EU?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ codejunky

Wots one of them curly things you stick in words

Your, you're, yore or yaw - please select one at random.

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Re: @ codejunky

Ok - "or"

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Mushroom

Simple explanation...

"Do as we say, not as we do".

You should try this as a private organization, then law enforcement will be all over you and all too ready to collect thousands worth of fines and "damages". And some people still keep wondering why the respect for politicians and the justice department is often dropping like a brick these days.

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FAIL

once again The Home Office shows it's completely out of control.

They've either turned a blind eye or actively supported

CCTV with ANPR

DNA retention

Unlimited facial storage in a system designed for facial recognition.

With no expiry date.

Even splitting it into DoJ and HO did not put a leash on them.

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Re: once again The Home Office shows it's completely out of control.

Actively support. Fund. Encourage.

...and hang the Police out to dry in the press if, for example, one of these people goes on to commit a publicity grabbing crime.

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Big Brother

Nobody Mention Backups

Surely this monster database is backed up to tape offsite securely, essentially forever. Explain to me how they can delete selected images from those backups. Thought not.

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Re: Nobody Mention Backups

The obvious solution is that backups not be kept forever. Let's say backups are labelled M, T, W, H, F and if the change is made on F1 then in a week the offending photos will be flushed out.

I'd also say that having the photos of innocents on tape, out of sight and therefore out of mind, is a huge advance on meddling (or pressured) cops looking in the criminal records databases for excuses to bust somebody, anybody.

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Re: Nobody Mention Backups

Well, given what I regulary read here on El Reg about the way IT is handled by the bobbies, that's probably the least of your worries. What are the odds that proper* backups even exist?

* You know... two is one, and one is none... actually be able to restore from backup... DR plans that exist and actually work... etc... etc...

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Holmes

Re: Nobody Mention Backups

Explain to me how they can delete selected images from those backups. Thought not.

Public sector IT(or indeed much private sector)? What are the chances that

backups are being taken at all?

backups are being taken successfully?

successful restores are possible?

On a more serious note, presumably deletion of the index could make restores impractical.

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Anonymous Coward

Have they actually stopped this practise now?

How useful are all these pictures? Protested at something? Fracking? Nuclear Disarmament? Against changes to green belt land or planning permission?

You are now a new member of the potential insurgent club and will be watched very closely/reeducated when a future government starts using its power to enable the new totalitarian regime with the powers already gained.

Don't try to fight it because that just gets you on the list. Also be careful what you look at on the internet.

Do I need a tin foil hat? Are these just conspiracy theory's? Am I reading this wrong?

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Not even logical within its own crooked mindset

If there is a genuine policing purpose for retaining an image of you (tagged with your name), wouldn't that purpose be better served by having an up-to-date image? So if the police *want* to retain an image, they should *still* destroy the one they've got and visit you (at your convenience, because you are entirely innocent, remember) to take a new one.

Or if they want to save time, most of the population is available to view in a variety of realistic poses with their friends and conveniently tagged by name on social media. Indeed, this is now such an overwhelming presumption that (apparently) I wouldn't be allowed into the US these days because I wouldn't be able to hand over my social media passwords.

You ... Couldn't ... Make ... It ... Up ... :(

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Trollface

No word from the queen?

Isn't her job to protect her subjects from her government? Isn't that the compact we have?

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Re: No word from the queen?

The queen's job? Let's have a think.....the definition would be....

Noun

1. An animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host does not benefit from the association and is often harmed by it.

2. A person who habitually lives at the expense of others; sponger.

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Re: No word from the queen?

I understand her job is to lure tourists into visiting Britain, and apparently she is quite good at it. Right now, Britain is making a handsome profit off this business model; this may well change when travelling to Britain becomes less convenient.

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Re: No word from the queen?

The queen's role is to protect the nation from the men who would be king. She stands between autocrats and despots and us. We have all the old-fashioned wording and ceremonies that enforce the idea that the Government works for her, that hey are her servants, and I think that is a useful, tiny reminder that they SERVE her to help US. I would like to think that she would exercise royal powers if it looks as if Parliament were taken over by, say, neo-nazis.

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Re: No word from the queen?

What evidence is there that people come to visit the UK because of the queen? Is there any? I cant help but think that people come here for all sorts of reasons, but not because a 90 odd year old, old lady lives here. They have plenty of old ladies at home surely?

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Re: No word from the queen?

Doesn't the executive branch of government exercise her royal, appointed by god (Dei Gratia Regina, as my loose change constantly reminds me), powers for her these days? The queen does seem fairly harmless to me, but what if God appoints a complete twat to replace her? I'm not that comfy with anyone who thinks that they have a sky ghost given divine right, having any power whatsoever. It's really silly having a head of state that we have no chance of getting rid of. At least the US have the chance to correct their mistake in 4 years. We have to wait for the incumbent to die.

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Anonymous Coward

Tit for Tat

I understand that in Germany protest groups collect images and information on policeman to level the playing field.

Our police are wonderful and such action in the UK is totally unnecessary. They are so wonderful that giving them more guns and tasers can only be a good thing. Some innocent people will get hurt but that is the price we must pay for freedom.

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Re: Tit for Tat

"collect images and information on policeman"

Was made criminal a few years agi in England.

"Our police are wonderful and such action in the UK is totally unnecessary. They are so wonderful that giving them more guns and tasers can only be a good thing"

In general they are wonderful and doing a very difficult job under impossible circumstances. More guns is not a good thing, but an officer can get quite badly hurt/raped/maimed/kidnapped in the 30 minutes it takes for backup to arrive outside of the large cities. So the alternative is not enforcing the law in rural areas or spending more money on more people.

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Re: Tit for Tat

"collect images and information on policeman"

Was made criminal a few years agi in England.

----

Evidence of this? Meanwhile, in the real world, the Mets own website categorically tells us: Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.

http://content.met.police.uk/Site/photographyadvice

I would assume, if a police officer saw a member of the public engaging in criminal activity, they would be bound to take steps to intervene. Since they have no power to prevent people filming them, it can be logically assumed that the filming of police officers is not in and of itself illegal.

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