FOI request reveals extent of Prevent data sharing

An FOI request has revealed that the data of people who are referred to Prevent is being shared more widely than previously known, including with airports, ports and immigration services. Data is also being re-used after cases have been marked ‘no further action’.

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Widespread data sharing

ORG uncovered this information when the Met police sent a poorly-redacted response to an FOI request. ORG wrote to the Met outlining our intention to publish some of information that appears in the Prevent Case Management Guidance, giving them to the opportunity to raise any concerns. As the Met failed to respond, we are sharing information that we believe to be in the public interest.

The Prevent Case Management Guidance describes how Prevent referrals are handled by counter-terrorism case officers, which systems are checked, which databases entries on the Prevent Case Management Tracker are shared with and which non-counter-terrorism and non-police parties counter-terrorism case officers may liaise with.

Other databases named in the guidance include: the Police National Computer, CTHolmes, SecureCTIntelSystem, Local Intelligence and Crimes Systems, Police National Database, NCIA, and OpenSource. Notably, flags may be placed on other watchlists such as the Ports Authority Watchlist, and in the case of foreign nationals, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Criminal Records Office and Immigration Services may be notified.

The Guidance also explains the intelligence cycle and the cross-checks that occur and the process of the police gateway assessment. The police gateway assessment decision determines whether Prevent referral moves on to Channel – the government’s deradicalisation programme. However, the guidance also shows that following a gateway decision that determines there is no case to move onto Channel, then a police-led partnership process may begin, with activity related to Pursue (another arm of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy).

Counter-Terrorism can also undertake disruptive activity including investigating and prosecuting “ASBs” (read anti-social behaviour), to disrupt someone’s supposed path to extremism. Counter-terrorism case officers may also capture evidence that may contribute to processes around safeguarding. The data of individuals subject to this process and others not progressed to Channel remain on the Prevent Case Management database, with a status update that reads ‘no further action’. However, the guidance reveals that their data can still be processed.

An abuse of data rights

Open Rights Groups is raising concerns that the continued use of this data outside of the purposes of Prevent could amount to reuse of data and unlawful processing.

 And considering the referrals have not met the threshold of being considered a radicalisation or terrorism threat, the fact that they can be flagged at ports, with the FCDO or with immigration seems disproportionate, considering the impact this may have on people’s lives. For instance, could entry on the ports authority watchlist, mean those individuals are more likely to be stopped under the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015’s schedule 7 powers – broad and censured powers that officers at ports and airports can invoke to stop, question and/or detain people to investigate if they are engaged in acts of terrorism, without the need for any reasonable suspicion. It is unclear from the document what criteria determines such flags and if this is included in any accompanying guidance.

People who are referred to Prevent have not been accused or found guilty of any crime but are believed to be showing signs of radicalisation. Many people do not even know that they have been referred as in over 95% of cases, the referral is marked as no further action or not referring a Channel intervention. However, as shown above, their data is not only retained on police databases but also shared to several other systems. This data can be left on systems for at least six years and up to 100 years.

This revelation adds to the case argued by ORG and other civil society groups that Prevent referral management amounts to unfair or unlawful data processing due to the extent of data sharing taking place without consent and – given the volume of Prevent referrals that are not progressed – a legitimate policing purpose. These excessive retention periods are neither necessary nor proportionate to the standards required under UK data protection regulations. This extensive data-sharing practice makes it almost impossible for people who have been referred to Prevent to exercise their data rights – they can’t ask for their data to be removed if they don’t know all the places where it is been held.


“For too long the authorities have been able to cite national security as a reason for undermining the data protection rights of people who have not even been accused of a crime. The disclosure of the guidance goes one step further in showing the extent of data sharing, and the harms that could result from this. We hope this information will help the thousands of affected people to exercise their data protection rights and get their data removed from the myriad of government databases where it is held. But we also need full transparency and better cooperation from the authorities who have enabled this data protection disaster.”

Sophia Akram, Pre-Crime Programme Manager at Open Rights Group

“The fact that children as young as 4, who have been referred to Prevent erroneously still have their data shared in such an intrusive manner should send shockwaves across the human rights and particularly children’s rights organisations. Prevent Watch clients have informed us of stops at the borders following Prevent referrals but we never had any evidence to suggest that the incidents were connected. The revelation by ORG gets us one step closer to exposing just how abusive the data processing aspect of Prevent is. The FOI further exposes the myth that Prevent is not a form of criminalisation because even the individuals flagged as “no further action” can have their data on criminal databases and flagged on watchlists. The natural tenets do not apply with Prevent where you can exonerate yourself from a charge/suspicion because of its pre-crime nature”

Dr Layla Aitlhadj, Director and Senior Caseworker at Prevent Watch

Notes to Editor

  • The FOI request was made as part of research by Open Rights Group, Prevent Watch and Lewis & Klein Associates into how data is retained, stored and shared under Prevent.
  • The latest government figures show that 6,817 people were referred to Prevent between April 2022 and March 2023. The greatest number of referrals were made by schools, universities and other education institutions, and include 2,119 children who are under 15.
  • In the wake of the crisis in Israel and Gaza, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan wrote to schools and universities reminding them of their duties under Prevent. This has sparked concerns that there will be a spike of referrals in recent weeks – – something which the Met’s Counterterrorism Chief has confirmed.