London gun owners want to know if the Metropolitan Police shared a database containing 30,000 firearm registrants’ information with a marketing firm.
On 18 April, 5,000 rifle owners and 25,000 shotgun owners living in London received a leaflet in the day’s mail. Titled “Protect Your Firearms and Shotguns with SmartWater,” the leaflet urges the recipient to purchase a “SmartWater firearms protection pack” along with a five-year membership for £8.95. The pack consists of a liquid that’s visible under only UV light. If gun owners mark their firearms with SmartWater, the police can then use that trace to contact the owners if anyone ever steals their rifle or shotgun.
The leaflet makes it clear that its “MetTrace” initiative is connected to the Metropolitan Police. You can see for yourself in an image of the leaflet below.
“MetTrace is a Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) operation to provide crime prevention advice and SmartWater forensic property marking packs to reduce burglary in London.
“Police are working hard to tackle and arrest criminals involved in gun crime. You can help us by using SmartWater to protect your firearms and/or shotguns from thieves.”
So the question is as follows: how did a marketing firm obtain access to a Metropolitan Police database containing the names and addresses of 30,000 gun owners, who by law registered their firearms with the force? Did the Met willingly share that information?
There’s no clear answer at this time. With that said, gun owners are reviewing Firearms Form 201, a statement they signed with police. This certificate (PDF) reads in part as follows:
“I understand that all information submitted will be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and connected legislation. I understand and give consent for information contained within my application form or obtained in the course of deciding the application to be shared with: my GP, other government departments, regulatory bodies or enforcement agencies in the course of either deciding the application or in pursuance of maintaining public safety or the peace.
“Note: Any information shared will be shared in accordance with data sharing protocols. We do not share your personal or company details with other applicants or members of the public and treat information in connection with the application in confidence, but individuals should be aware that we may be required to disclose some information in accordance with the legislation referred to above.”
The Metropolitan Police, which was still running Windows XP on 27,000 computers as of August 2016, is currently looking into this matter, reports The Register. While this investigation moves forward, any of the affected gun owners with concerns about their privacy have the right to speak to the Information Commissioner’s Office.