As many as 30,000 firearms owners in the UK have now reason to believe that the Met Police may have revealed their personal information, which includes their addresses, to a commercial firm which is neither a government department, a regulatory body nor an enforcement agency.
The alarm was raised when the firearms owners received advertising leaflets from a commercial firm which offered marking their weapons as a protection from burglars.
The said advertisements were sent out by Smartwater, a commercial business owned by an ex-policeman. The product being offered was THIEVES BEWARE®, which is basically an invisible ink which can be used to identify the real owner of a burgled weapon, and is being offered at a discounted price of £8.95. Shotgun and rifle owners are well aware that owner-identification of weapons can be performed by forensic analysts without using commercial products like THIEVES BEWARE®, so it made little sense for the Met Police to share their addresses with the firm.
An existing data protection agreement between the Met police and firearms owners is within the framework of legislations like the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. As per the agreement, the Met Police will only share personal information of firearm owners with a GP, a government department, a regulatory body or an enforcement agency, if required for the larger cause of maintaining public safety or peace.
The fact that a commercial firm now possesses addresses of 30,000 firearms owners from across the country makes it impossible to say whether such information will remain confidential or will someone manage to sell such information off to eager buyers. What's more worrying for firearms owners is that it will now be easier for burglars to identify and target them in the future.
The British Association for Shooting and Conservation has taken up the matter with the Met Police and an investigation is underway to ascertain the data leak. "BASC has spoken with the Metropolitan Police and we understand they are investigating this matter. We are not in a position to comment further until the result of that investigation is known," said the association to The Register.
Image source: The Register