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Staffs Police face data protection probe over 'drink drivers named' Twitter campaign

ICO to ponder whether hashtag wrongly implied suspects' guilt

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Staffordshire Police, who ran a Twitter campaign against alleged drink-drivers over the Christmas period by naming and shaming suspects charged with the offence, are now being investigated by the UK's information watchdog for a possible breach of data protection law.

The move comes after the Information Commissioner's Office received a complaint about the police force's decision to publish the details of the suspects - including name and age - on the micro-blogging site alongside the hashtag "DrinkDriversNamedOnTwitter".

Some argued that the hashtag itself implied that the suspects were guilty of the offence, despite only having been charged with the offences.

In the run up to Christmas, the cop shop tweeted the names of more than 80 individuals who had been cuffed and charged over allegations of driving drunk behind the wheel of a car. Significantly, none of the named individuals had been convicted or sentenced.

The controversial campaign was attacked by privacy experts, who questioned whether Staffordshire Police had violated data protection laws.

An ICO spokesman told The Register:

We are currently making enquiries into a possible breach of the Data Protection Act by Staffordshire Police relating to their #drinkdriversnamedontwitter campaign.

El Reg understands that the regulator is mulling over principle 1 of the Data Protection Act that requires information to be be processed fairly and lawfully.

In mid-December, Staffordshire Police - which tweets under the Twitter handle @StaffsPolice - claimed to have "overwhelming support" for its anti drink-driving campaign and said it would help reduce such alleged crimes in the area.

At the time, the constabulary's Chief Inspector Paul Trevor said the force would use Twitter to name and shame "those who have been caught drink-driving" on a daily basis.

In direct response to the criticism, Staffordshire Police added: "There have been concerns raised about naming those charged. However, it is force policy to name people who have been charged and when offenders attend court it becomes a matter of public record." ®

Bootnote

Surprisingly, Twitter is not yet trending with the following hashtag: #gohomestaffspoliceyouredrunk.

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