What’s disturbing about the knowledge is that London’s Metropolitan Police revealed that information to a private company and may have violated British privacy laws in the process:
London gun owners are asking questions of the Metropolitan Police after the force seemingly handed the addresses of 30,000 firearm and shotgun owners to a direct mail marketing agency for a commercial firm’s advertising campaign.
The first any of the affected people knew about the blunder was when the leaflet (pictured below) landed on their doormats in Tuesday’s post.
Titled “Protect your firearms and shotguns with Smartwater”, the leaflet – which features Met Police logos – advises firearm and shotgun certificate holders to “buy a firearms protection pack at a reduced price” of £8.95.
Smartwater is basically invisible ink. You mark your property using it and if you are burgled, police can use a UV light reader to see who rightfully owns stolen items. The company behind it was formed by an ex-police detective and his industrial chemist brother, and the firm has since forged very close links with a number of UK police forces. Its website boasts of the “traceable liquid’s” crime-reducing properties, something that police actively endorse.
The front and reverse of the Metropolitan Police Smartwater firearms leaflet
Questions were immediately raised as to whether the Met had broken the law. The data protection statement that both police and certificate holders agree to is found in Firearms Form 201 (PDF), the application form for a firearm certificate. It says:
I understand that all information submitted will be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and connected legislation. I understand and give consent for information contained within my application form or obtained in the course of deciding the application to be shared with: my GP, other government departments, regulatory bodies or enforcement agencies in the course of either deciding the application or in pursuance of maintaining public safety or the peace.
Note: Any information shared will be shared in accordance with data sharing protocols. We do not share your personal or company details with other applicants or members of the public and treat information in connection with the application in confidence, but individuals should be aware that we may be required to disclose some information in accordance with the legislation referred to above.
The Register has made the Information Commissioner’s Office aware of the breach and is awaiting a statement from the data watchdog.