Software error in national police system leads to thousands of deleted records

It was recently reported that the UK police have lost more than 150,000 arrest records due to a database error.

The Home Office is trying to assess the damage within the systems as well as seeing if no dangerous criminals’ records were deleted. The records that were wiped were of people arrested and then released without any further charges or actions.

The data that was deleted included fingerprints, DNA, and arrest histories. It was stored within the Police National Computer (PNC), which holds and shares criminal records information across the UK.

The policing minister declared that a standard housekeeping process that usually runs on the Police National Computer deleted a number of records due to a coding error and that the problem was now identified and corrected so it wouldn’t happen again.

He added that they were now working to recover the data as well as make sure that there is no threat to public safety.

However, it is still unclear how widespread the data breach was and how many policing systems it happened. Indeed, the PNC holds information on about 12.6 million individuals yet it doesn’t have a fingerprint or other biometric information. These are located in the IDENT1 system. Likewise, DNA information is held in the National DNA Database. This means that the issue has affected various UK policing databases.

It was also reported that the issue might have affected the UK’s visa system. It has then been suspended for two days.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has called on home secretary Priti Patel to take responsibility for the computer error and provide clarity over its impact.

The Labour shadow home secretary declared that this was a serious security breach that could have heavy consequences, especially regarding public safety.

This deletion raised many concerns about police records such as why are the police keeping personal data about people that it doesn’t need and how protected are these data if it can be deleted due to a coding error. Is there no backup, no policies to prevent it from being lost?

The Home Office didn’t address how it will retrieve the lost data if it can, and when would that happen.

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