UK Home Office under fire after losing 150K biometric records from police database
The UK Home Office has accidentally deleted an estimated 150,000 arrest history records from the Police National Computer (PNC), including fingerprint and DNA biometrics, which was stored for forensic purposes and checking visa applications. The Times reports Britain’s visa system has been disrupted to the point that application processing was suspended for two days, and that critical intelligence about suspects was lost.
Officials are working to recover the records, though it is unclear as of mid-day Friday if they had been able to recover any. The incident reportedly occurred during a regular weekly “weeding” session, but included only data of people who had been arrested and released with no further action, rather than convicted criminals or dangerous persons, according to The Guardian.
The PNC stores millions of biometric records, many of which are automatically removed after reaching the end of a specified retention period.
Meetings have been held between Home Office and police, who are jointly attempting to pin down the number of records lost, and the UK shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called for Home Minister Priti Patel to issue an urgent statement.
The data storage incident comes after years of UK authorities trying to get Home Office to delete a collection of biometric data it was ordered in a High Court ruling to expunge in 2012.
The Guardian writes that Britain’s recent deal with the EU to exit the regional body resulted in the loss of access to about 40,000 alerts related to criminals, which had been stored in the PNC. The PNC is used for real-time checks of people and vehicles with biometrics and other data.