Dover Harbour Board and Kent Police are reprimanded by the ICO for sharing information.

Dover Harbour Board and Kent Police are reprimanded by the ICO for sharing information.

Because Dover Harbour Board and Kent Police violated data protection legislation, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reprimanded them.

In an effort to combat vehicle crime, officers from both organizations utilized the instant-messaging service Telegram and the social media application WhatsApp on their personal mobile devices. The Telegram group comprised 241 officers from various UK police forces and international law enforcement agencies at the time of the ICO’s investigation. The ICO discovered indications that personal information was being disseminated among group members in the absence of adequate protections.

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By utilizing social media messaging applications on their personal devices, managers and supervisors circumvent the oversight that is essential. Law enforcement agencies have established official channels through which they may lawfully exchange information that is intended for staff use.

Specifics of the admonitions

Port of Dover Board

The social media distribution group was established and overseen by a Dover Harbour Board officer utilising his personal mobile phone. Initially operating on WhatsApp, the group transitioned to Telegram in 2020.

Dover Harbour Board exhibited a deficient understanding of and adherence to data protection legislation, as determined by the ICO. Furthermore, the organization’s data protection training proved inadequate for the purposes of operational policing. There was an absence of risk assessment and safeguards during the formation of the organizations, including a procedure to remove members who resigned from law enforcement employment.

Dover Harbour Board has provided officers with additional data protection training since the incident, and the ICO has provided recommendations such as a review of the organization’s data protection policies and the potential for its employees to utilize other social media groups.

Dover Harbour Board’s reprimand is in accordance with the public-sector approach of the ICO. Consideration was given to a fine of £500,000; however, substantial penalties imposed on public sector organizations are funded by the public, resulting in budget cuts for essential services.

Kent Security

Kent Police notified the ICO subsequent to an officer’s revelation that a fellow officer had utilized a personal mobile phone to capture a photograph of an individual’s identification document, which was subsequently uploaded to Telegram. The ICO discovered that twenty-five officers from the force were members of the Telegram group, of which two had administration privileges for moderation purposes and five were known to have shared personal information. The inability of Kent Police to ensure that officers were sufficiently informed about the unacceptable nature of using personal devices to process data acquired in the course of their official duties was the conclusion reached by the ICO.

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Kent Police, upon becoming cognizant of its officers’ utilization of the group, issued an instantaneous directive for them to cease such conduct. A reprimand and recommendations have been issued by the ICO, which includes the provision of guidance regarding the use of social media applications.

SallyAnne Poole, head of investigations for the ICO, stated:

“The enforcement of data protection laws does not impede law enforcement efforts.” However, the implementation of these applications was ill-advised and a failure on the part of both Dover Harbour Board and Kent Police to guarantee the security of individuals’ private information.

“We applaud the measures that have already been implemented by both organizations and have proposed additional precautions to enable their personnel to fulfill their duties while safeguarding the confidentiality of individuals’ personal information.”


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