FOI campaigner: Privacy concerns misplaced on crime map plan

London mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to disclose maps of crimes committed in the capital is being held up by “an unthinking, fetishistic attitude towards privacy“, freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke argues in the Times today.

“When I was a crime reporter in America, I was able to view all police incident reports, jail booking records and every warrant signed by the magistrate. I had some privileges as a reporter, but all this information was considered to belong to the public,” she notes.

In Britain, by contrast, she has found similar data is impossible to obtain, even under the Freedom of Information Act.

Brooke notes that crime maps that hold local police to account are a fixture of local newpapers’ websites in the United States, and that a number of independent sites, like Everyblock and Spotcrime, have emerged to provide more detailed views of local crime data.

In April, the Conservative Party has pledged to introduce crime mapping in the UK, and Johnson said during his campaign for Mayor that he would begin work toward introducing the policy to London on “day one” of his administration.

The plan now has Government support. But it has also plan has faced opposition from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, who fear its effect on house prices.

More crucially, the Information Commissioner’s office has advised police that the plan could breach the Data Protection Act and violate the privacy of crime victims.

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