Monday 16 September 2019

Report finds Gardai snooping on celebrities and sports stars

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

MEMBERS of the Gardai have been using the force’s computer records system to snoop on celebrities and sports stars, the Data Protection Commissioner has found.

The agency conducted a privacy audit of the Garda PULSE system and found extensive instances of “inappropriate access” of Gardai using the system to view the records of public figures in cases where they are listed as victims and witnesses.

The audit found:

* One high profile individual had their records accessed 80 times.

* Another person’s name was searched 50 times.

* A well-known inter-county GAA player was among those searched inappropriately.

The details of the audit were included in the Data Protection Commission’s Annual Report which was published today.

The report notes that the audit found that “PULSE accesses of three high profile media personalities” as well as the GAA player “appeared to bear no relation to the valid entries relating to these individuals in connection with official police business.”

The commissioner’s report states that the issue was “raised as a matter of urgency” with senior Garda management.

They were told that there were plans to introduce new review system which “places a responsibility on District Superintendents to require members to account for the business reason for a specified percentage of access to the system per month.”

The accesses to PULSE examined would be chosen at random.

The commissioner was also told that six garda districts a month would be audited by the forces’ professional standards unit

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan issued a circular last December ordering the reason for PULSE queries to be recorded when accessing the system.

The Data Commisoner’s report notes: “We intend to follow-up and examine evidence of the new audit review programme.”

The agency’s annual report recorded 1,349 complaints for investigation in relation to other data protection issues in 2012 as well as 1,666 data security breach notifications.

It released the details of the prosecution of three Insurance Companies for Data Protection Registration offences after social welfare data, sourced via a private investigator, was found on insurance claim files held by those companies.

And it reported on a High Court ruling that Dublin Bus must supply copy of CCTV footage of an incident involving a member of the public who requested the video under the right of access.

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