Danish Data Protection Agency slams National Police for breaching data protection laws

“A fair trial is an essential human right. The National Police’s data processing jeopardizes that,” says the Data Protection Agency.

The National Police is facing “serious criticism” from the Danish Data Protection Agency for violating the Danish arm of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules.

The regulations fall under the Law Enforcement Act, which apply to “the processing of personal data by the police, the prosecution, including the military prosecution, the penitentiary, the Independent Police Prosecution Service and the courts.”

False evidence and wrongful convictions
Specifically, in 2019 the National Police found a system error in the program they had been using to convert raw mobile phone data – geolocation records for example – from telecommunications companies for use in criminal cases.

Therefore, for at least seven years, police trial evidence had relied on inaccurate teledata. All in all, about 10,000 cases had to be reviewed in case of wrongful convictions. The Minister of Justice Nick Hækkerup (S) called the case a “genuine scandal” and in December 2019 Chief of Police Jens Henrik Højbjerg resigned.

Speaking to TV2, the Data Protection Agency’s IT security specialist, Allan Frank, flatly condemned the National Police. “It’s about making sure that you have the right data, and if not, to correct it. If you cannot, you delete it. They are the most basic provisions of the law and the police violated them,” he said.

“It may sound lofty but a fair trial is an essential human right. The National Police’s data processing jeopardizes that,” he says.

“Delete problematic data within six weeks”
In February this year, the Ministry of Justice announced that an independent audit had so far reviewed 5,000 criminal cases that were found to have “no basis for continuation”, according to TV2.

On Monday, the Danish Data Protection Agency called for the National Police to delete problematic personal data within six weeks. Lars Mortensen, police inspector at the National Police’s National Cyber ​​Crime Center, responded that “the National Police always takes criticism seriously.”

“However, these are matters that we acknowledged back in 2019. The criticisms that emerge here are something we explained in 2019 together with the Attorney General. So there is nothing new in this case for us.”