Gardaí Defend Keeping Data Of Cleared People
Thursday 20th, October 2022
Ireland Report / Story
An Garda Síochána has come out defending it's policy of retaining data on people who have been cleared of producing or sharing child sexual abuse material.

The Garda (Irish police) receive information from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) about suspected child sexual abuse material and the people who share this material. This information from NCMEC is shared with law enforcement agencies around the world.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has accused the Gardaí of unlawfully retaining data such which includes email addresses and screen names of individuals even after these individuals have been cleared of any wrong doing.

It's reports that between 2017 and 2022 that the Gardaí received more than 21,000 referrals from NCMEC.

Furthermore the ICCL has said that in 2020 the Gardaí had verified that more that 11%, 471 referrals were not child sex abuse material and could very well have been something as innocent as a individual taking pictures of their child on a beach.

A statement from An Garda Síochána stated that the data from NCMEC is held on a segregated database which is only accessible by a specialist unit within the Garda National Protective Services Bureau (GNPSB) which is responsible for assessing the referrals from NCMEC.

"In cases where no criminal offence is identified following a review of material referred to An Garda Síochána for investigation, no crime incident records are created," according to the statement.

"This means there is no impact on any person referenced in that data, and no references to them as suspects or victims."

Gardaí said that there is a reason and rationale for the continued retention of the original referral data with some reasons cited to include quality assurance and accountability for the actions taken as we ll as decisions that are made by the investigating members involved in looking into the referrals from NCMEC.

Additionally the statement said that the Gardaí have to comply with provisions in legislation including the National Archives Act.

The ICCL said the practice is leading to innocent people being kept in a net of surveillance and suspicion with no cause.

"This has implications for people's right to privacy, data protection and presumption of innocence," said Olga Cronin of the ICCL.

"An Garda Síochána is retaining the personal data of people incorrectly flagged as suspects, in some situations for merely taking pictures of their kids on a beach. This is at odds with data protection law," Ms Cronin said.
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