Mass Surveillance

Prevent and the Pre-Crime State: How unaccountable data sharing is harming a generation

Thousands of Prevent referrals are made each year ostensibly to “support people susceptible to radicalisation”. The overwhelmingly majority do not meet the threshold for a Channel intervention (a multi-agency deradicalisation programme). Despite this, the data of Prevent referees is retained and shared across multiple databases, with potentially harmful outcomes. Through analysing responses to freedom of information requests, this report gives a comprehensive overview of how data is being acquired, retained and shared.

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How unaccountable data sharing under the Prevent programme is harming a generation.

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Key Findings

  • Referrals are stored within a national Prevent database, regardless of whether they meet the threshold to be reviewed by a Channel panel.
  • Data is being held for a minimum of six years but can be kept for up to 100 years. The rationale for this minimum retention period is to consider the possibility of “re-offending” – even though Prevent referees have not in fact committed a crime. If there is no policing purpose for retaining data, this retention could be unlawful. Individuals are not necessarily informed that their data is being stored nor whether their data has been deleted after the six-year period or further retained.
  • There appears to be a lack of oversight and parliamentary scrutiny over data sharing, processing and storage of Prevent referrals that are inappropriate for Channel interventions but which are managed by police-led partnerships. Once a case is managed by the police, national security exemptions can be applied to limit rights to rectification, access and removal. But the Intelligence and Security Committee does not deal with policing and the Independent reviewer of Terrorism Legislation does not oversee cases managed by police-led partnerships. This means that new counter terrorism capabilities are being built without Parliamentary oversight or legislative safeguards.
  • The data of some Prevent referees is being shared with airports, ports and immigration services. This could explain reports that people who have been referred to Prevent have subsequently been questioned at ports and airports under schedule 7.
  • It is very difficult for individuals to exercise their right to erasure and request data is removed because many will not know that they have been referred to Prevent. Even when they do know, the lack of transparency about data sharing makes it very difficult for individuals to find out all the different places that their data is being held.
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The Prevent Duty and the attack on freedom of expression

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Shawcross review of prevent

ORG’s response to the controversial Shawcross recommendations

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