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Is the Information Commissioner against crime mapping? Actually, no

Mike Cross has got a statement from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on the proposed crime mapping by the new London mayor. Here it is in full:

“The ICO recognises the benefits of crime mapping to help police forces identify crime patterns, for instance to help plan the deployment of officers. However, when considering making such information public, it makes sense to think through what the intended benefits are and to weigh these against the potential privacy intrusion involved. We believe that this will involve carefully considering what level of detail, both of the offences themselves and where they took place, should be placed in the public domain. There is a risk that revealing exactly where a particular crime took place could lead to the identification of victims who may wish to remain anonymous. Even in circumstances where an individual cannot be confidently identified, there may be a risk that releasing information about a crime may lead some to infer the identity of the victim. It may also cause concern to those living in the locality, especially those with particular concerns about their security, for instance those living in some form of refuge. There is a need to balance the intended benefits of releasing such information against the potential intrusion or concern this might cause individuals.”

Points to note: the ICO does not come out against it, explicitly. It says that there is a need to balance benefits and risks. To be honest, it is vague to the point of pointlessness.

As to “revealing exactly where a particular crime took place”, that is done all the time by police reports (and then by media reports). And the proposals put forward by Boris Johnson (at least in his manifesto) are specific about *not* giving precise locations of crimes – it was clearly recognised. To reiterate, quoting the manifesto,

We believe there should be three kinds of map for each area for three categories of offences:

(a) where privacy is less of an issue: at their exact location with a pinpoint showing exactly where the offence occurred;
(b) where privacy might be an issue: identifying a 300 metre long street section within which an offence occurred; and
(c) where privacy is an issue: identifying the nearest whole street within which an offence occurred.

(Assaults would be in category (a); sexual attacks and domestic violence in (c), for example.)

It seems likely the ICO hasn’t looked at this, even though it’s been in the Tory manifesto, and of course here on our blog (aren’t we required reading for the ICO?).

So now it’s up to the police and, of course, to the mayor’s office. The clock is still ticking…

3 Responses to “Is the Information Commissioner against crime mapping? Actually, no”

  1. Michael Cross Says:

    I see crime mapping is also being debated in the Athenian corridors of Comment is Free.
    http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/harry_phibbs/2008/06/x_marks_the_hotspot.html

  2. Free Our Data: the blog » Blog Archive » Cabinet Office Taskforce blogs… and you should read it Says:

    [...] there are “privacy issues”. We feel sure we’ve heard this before – oh, because we actually looked into it, and found there isn’t a real objection. The comments on the Times piece are interesting, [...]

  3. Erin McKay Says:

    Police Departments all over the US are already using crime mapping, take a look at http://www.crimereports.com. There is no privacy issue here because the addresses are stripped down to the block level. So you know where the crime happened but not the exact location in order to protect the victims.

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